Thomas Cook plans to send more staff on overseas trips after chief executive Manny Fontenla-Novoa said German agents had the best product knowledge in Europe.
The company will step up the number of educational trips for UK agents this winter and next summer as it aims to have at least one agent in every shop who knows the key destinations.
Fontenla-Novoa – pictured with Tui Travel chief Peter Long – told the Institute of Travel and Tourism conference in Venice: “High street distribution is still important. [But] staff training and product are much more important than the shop environment. Agents in Germany are the best in Europe. Their product knowledge is the best.”
He told Travel Weekly: “Being an agent is a career in Germany. They invest a lot in educationals. We are looking to reintroduce educational trips [from the UK] for the winter programme and for summer 2012. Agents will have more opportunity to travel and there will be more online training.”
Fontenla-Novoa added: “We took 1,200 customer services staff to Sharm el-Sheikh in May. We’ll take 2,500 to an important destination in December – and that is on top of the educationals.
“We’ll try to cover all the important destinations – so if a client comes into a shop and asks for Hurghada, at least one member of staff has been there.”
He said staff currently might go on two or three trips a year.
Fontenla-Novoa confirmed that staff from The Co-operative Travel and Midlands Co-operative would be part of the trips programme if the merger is given the go-ahead by the Competition Commission.
Meanwhile, former Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy told ITT delegates in Venice: “You have tremendous potential to create trusted brands.” But he warned: “Your industry has a challenge: can [the consumer] trust the price?”