UK number-two Thomas Cook will remain a “strong, stable competitor” to Tui Travel despite its recent cash crisis and continuing restructing, according to UK mainstream head Ian Ailles.

Ailles told the Institute of Travel and Tourism conference in Barbados: “We will choose to compete in some areas and not in others. We know what we have to do.”

Responding to remarks at the conference by Tui Travel deputy chief executive Johan Lundgren the day before, Ailles said: “We intend to become a strong, stable competitor to Tui Travel.”

Lundgren had told the ITT: “What we do not want in a competitor is unpredictability. We would rather they be strong and predictable than weak and unpredictable.”

Ailles told the conference: “In our industry, stability is a relative concept. The last three months at Thomas Cook have been relatively stable.”

He suggested Thomas Cook was unfazed by its rival’s focus on “differentiated product” in resorts. Ailles said: “We hear our competitors talking consistently about differentiated product. Thomas Cook will pursue differentiated product, but perhaps with a different model.

“We will make choices about where we compete and perhaps where we don’t.”

Ailles told Travel Weekly: “If you open a hotel with 450 rooms, it is hard if in five or six years customers want something different.

“If you invest too heavily in the hardware [of hotels], it is hard to be flexible. We prefer to work with hotel groups that will take the risk.  We might have exclusivity, but we will be less tied in.”

Outlining Cook’s strategy with third parties, Ailles told the ITT: “We will continue to work closely with the best third-party distributors and have targets for those distributors.”

He said: “We like to work with people who deliver their numbers rather than go with everyone selling everything.

“We have probably been a bit generic, saying can you support us? Over the longer term, we will say ‘we’re doing this volume, how do we grow another 5%’.”