Three years ago, Thomas Cook was in pieces, flagging
behind its rivals, the company’s UK chief executive Manny
Fontenla-Novoa has admitted.

In a surprisingly candid address, Fontenla-Novoa revealed:
“[When I took the helm] we were a broken business. We envied
TUI and its leadership position when it came to delivering profits
and customer services.

“Some of us wanted to be more aggressive and commercial
like Airtours. We talked about First Choice’s strategy but
our heritage, or DNA, is different.”

Fontenla-Novoa added: “I used to lie awake at night
worried about how we would close the gap [with rivals].”

He admitted the company was viewed as a “sleeping
giant” which was “commercially naive” – an
institution rather than
a profit-making business.

The transformation of the UK business, which made a loss of
£50 million three years ago and is set to make a
£100
million profit by 2006/07, was based on a number of factors –
primarily ensuring staff were motivated in turning the business
around and keeping an honest rapport with all employees.

Other factors included leveraging the Thomas Cook brand across
the airline and tour operation and relocating from London to
Peterborough.

Fontenla-Novoa claimed Thomas Cook was now within
“touching distance” of becoming the most successful
business in the mass-market sector in the UK and “more
successful than First Choice”.

He added: “We developed our own business and because of
that we now have a company that is in incredible shape. But we
still have a long way to go.”

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