Reports of the collapse of the Thomas Cook share price have dominated the UK news, but had less impact in the group’s other major markets.
In an exclusive interview with Travel Weekly, Thomas Cook UK and Ireland mainstream chief executive Ian Ailles said: “The UK media reports have created doubt and uncertainty in customers’ minds. But my colleagues in Scandinavia and elsewhere in Europe say there has not been the same reaction.”
Ailles said: “There is a City issue and we have had some difficult headlines, but we are carrying on trading. It is business as usual.”
He added: “We won’t be in the headlines every day. Fortunately, we are entering a quiet period of the year.
“However, we do need to be on the front foot in the January peak period. So the quicker we can remove the uncertainty the better.”
Much of the media coverage has referred to Thomas Cook as though it is solely a UK company. Yet the group handled two-thirds of its £8.9 billion revenue outside the UK last year and 68% of its operating profits came from markets elsewhere in Europe.
The company’s results for the nine months to June confirmed this pattern, with Germany and Scandinavia among Thomas Cook’s strongest markets.
Ailles said: “Germany and Scandinavia have been having a good, strong year. Our third-quarter results showed these markets are fine. The German tour operator and airline businesses have both been doing well.”
He added: “This is a corporate story that has become consumer story in the UK because of the corporate brand. Our headquarters are in the UK and Thomas Cook is an iconic brand.
“David Cameron saying what he did [on Wednesday] showed we are an iconic business. There are people behind us right up to the highest level of government. His comment made me proud to work for Thomas Cook – although it did make the story run another day.”
Thomas Cook staff have been urged to reassure customers as the company fights to assure its future. Ailles said: “We need to be strong in reassuring customers that it is business as usual, and remind them they are getting Atol protection.”