Thomas Cook boss Peter Fankhauser called on the new UK government to bring stability for businesses and to make the scrapping of Air Passenger Duty a priority.
The group chief executive was speaking to suppliers and trade partners at a 175th birthday party for the iconic British travel brand in London last night.
He said the firm had made “huge progress in all areas” under his leadership in what he described as “the most challenging business environment” he has ever experienced.
But he said he hoped the new UK government under Prime Minister Theresa May would bring stability and provide certainty for businesses in uncertain times following the Brexit referendum vote.
“We at last appear to be entering a more stable period under Theresa May as Prime Minister,” he said, “as Mrs May and her team in government look to steady the ship and build a positive future post-Brexit.”
Fankhauser said UK holidaymakers are subject to the highest air taxes in the world which “placed an unfair burden on our consumers”. He added Scotland had already indicated its intention to abolish the tax and said “England needs to get in line”.
“We need to have holidays for everyone, exactly the vision of our founder 175 years ago,” he said.
Fankhauser, a Swiss national, criticised EU bureaucrats for failing to reflect on the implications of Brexit and said they should create an EU most people want to be part of.
“They seem only to want to defend what they have. In these circumstances you have to accept the vote but also do what you can to improve the environment we are operating in.”
Fankhauser said everyone in Thomas Cook was committed to putting its customers at the heart of everything it does and it had “learned the hard way” the implications of falling short of what he described as “the most important” legacy its founder left it.
The firm was heavily criticised for the way it handled the deaths of two children, Robert and Christianne Shepherd, of carbon monoxide poisoning in Corfu while on a Cook holiday in 2006 and was found to have breached its duty of care after an inquest last year.
However, Fankhauser was optimistic about the prospects for Thomas Cook. “We are far stronger, more resilient and more importantly on the right path for the future,” he said.
Earlier Cook chairman Frank Meysman said Cook was set for continuous growth although he admitted the path had not been smooth in recent decades as it had now been at the beginning of the company’s history.
But he said the founding principles of the firm remain . “The vision was to broaden the minds of people and break down prejudice, to create opportunities to reach people from other counties, bridge differences and help to bring the world together.”
Meysman said the cornerstones of Cook’s ethos; discovery, memorable experiences, trust and affordability continue to underpin the firm today.
He said having multiple regional bases around the world in the UK, Scandinavia, Russia and now China “does not entirely protect us against the unexpected but it does make us much less vulnerable”.
“It’s been a privilege to be a part of this company’s history even in a time of unprecedented technological change and geopolitical upheaval,” Meysman said.