Thomas Cook boss hits out at Greek tourism minister

Thomas Cook boss Manny Fontenla-Novoa has hit out at the Greek tourism minister for being “too busy” to speak to the trade at the recent World Travel Market.

Fontenla-Novoa said market statistics showed sales to the destination were 21% down while capacity had been cut across the destination for next year.

The company is urging hoteliers in the destination to review their rates as it suffers a drop in British tourist numbers alongside other euro destinations such as Spain because of the fall in value of the pound against the euro.

WTM is a key forum for tour operators and hoteliers to meet to discuss contracts, deals or specific concerns. But Fontenla-Novoa said the company, the second largest travel company in the UK, could not secure a meeting with Greek tourism minister Aris Spiliotopoulos at this year’s event in London in November.

He said: “The Greek tourism minister was too busy to see anyone from the industry, which is outrageous in a market that is 21% down.”

The Greek National Tourism Organisation declined to respond to the comments.

Meanwhile, Thomas Cook is already asking hoteliers in Spain and Greece to reduce rates in light of the latest currency fluctuations in the economic downturn,

Fontenla-Novoa warned the UK travel industry faces a “torrid time” because of the poor exchange rate.

He said: “I think the pound-euro relationship will become more and more important as we go through the year. If Spanish and Greek hoteliers don’t do something about that the UK market will face a torrid time.

“We are having to go to hotels and ask them to pass some of the pain on. We do feel confident we will be able to reduce some of our rates with hotels.”

Spain was no longer a cheap destination to visit, he said, and there continued to be a shift to cheaper non-euro destinations such as Turkey and to all-inclusive holidays. Market figures show sales to Spain are 18% down, while sales to Turkey are 20% up.

“Destinations like Spain have been badly hit and Greece is having a tough time. There is no question consumers are cutting back. Spanish hoteliers can do something about that by doing something about their prices.

“For the first time, Spanish hoteliers are feeling it. The market there has totally collapsed and is in worse shape than the UK. Unemployment has increased in the country and the housing market has started to collapse.”


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