Wendy Wu Tours has promoted UK managing director Manuel Mascarenhas to head up its destination management company in Europe and named Laurence Hicks as his successor.

Hicks will rejoin Wendy Wu Tours on January 1 after a stint as interim managing director of the leading China specialist more than three years ago. He was most recently working for Club La Costa.

Speaking exclusively to Travel Weekly, Wendy Wu, owner and managing director of the specialist tour operator, said: “Manuel has been UK managing director for the past three years and has done a great job building a fantastic team and securing our position as the leading China specialist.

“But we have this Destination Management Company, Inbound China, that’s been servicing Wendy Wu clients with first class tours etc and that has huge opportunity to grow by servicing other tour operators around the world, with the same outstanding ground service, destination knowledge and quality experience synonymous with Wendy Wu Tours.

Wu added: “I needed to have a very strong person to run that in Europe for me, which is Manuel. There’s no-one in the sector that Manuel doesn’t beat on contacts, skills and salesmanship,” she said.

Commenting on Hicks’ return and the timing, Wu said: “Wendy Wu Tours has been growing steadily. It’s been a baby, but now it’s ready to burst into life. We have really ambitious plans for this business and hope to double it in the next three to five years.”

She declined to reveal passenger numbers from the UK.

Wu said this would be done by launching a “huge” range of new tours and experiences in China, but revealed the company was keen to expand its programmes in Indo-China, covering Vietnam, Cambodia and Burma, and also in India and the Bhutan.

“The key thing for Laurence and his team is to make sure agents are educated in and knowledgable about these destinations and what you can do there if you’re travelling with Wendy Wu Tours.”

Hicks said: “The potential for Wendy Wu Tours to significantly grow over the next few years is enormous and I am delighted to be given an opportunity to spearhead the next phase in the company’s development.”

Wu revealed Mascaranhas had originally initiated the need for the DMC and so it was a natural progression for him “to see this through in the UK and the rest of Europe”.

Mascarenhas said: “I am delighted to be an integral part of the exciting development plans of Wendy Wu Tours.

“China has so much to offer visitors and through Inbound China, we will be able to offer our expertise, high levels of service and knowledge to the wider European travel industry to an ever growing customer base.”