Thomas Cook

New Germany chief and European tour operating model

Thomas Cook is shaking up its Germany management, introducing a centralised European tour operating model and has improved its half-year results.

Under the management reorganisation announced on Wednesday (May 20), Germany CEO Michael Tenzer will leave the company “at his own request”. Tenzer, whose future career plans are not known, will be replaced from August onwards by Stefanie Berk, a former senior manager in Germany who is currently head of Product & Yield in the UK. As head of Central & Eastern Europe, she will also be responsible for Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary. Christoph Debus, board member in charge of airlines, will head the Central Europe region on an interim basis.

Group CEO Peter Fankhauser praised Tenzer’s achievements at Thomas Cook Germany. “Michael Tenzer has decisively influenced our company in recent years and modernised the tour operator business with the introduction of dynamic production. With his tourism expertise he substantially accompanied the transformation of our company.” Fankhauser described Berk as “an excellent manager with extensive international experience in very different areas of Thomas Cook”, not only in tour operating but also in the group’s hotels business.

In parallel, Thomas Cook is also centralising its European tour operating model with a new structure. From July, former TUI Germany manager Kirsten Feld-Türkis will join the company as Group Head of Premium Product and Longhaul, reporting to Björne Sandström, the Chief Touristic Platform Officer. She has been tasked with “accelerating the development of our exotic long-haul and luxury Signature holidays across the group”. At TUI Germany, Feld-Türkis headed both the luxury tour operator Airtours and also long-haul holidays.

In another managerial move, Reto Wilhelm, currently head of Western and Eastern Europe businesses, will take charge of implementing the joint venture with Chinese shareholder Fosun. The two groups plan to set up a Shanghai-based joint venture in China to offer outbound, inbound and domestic travel from the autumn onwards. In addition, they plan to invest in some 30 hotels, with Fosun funds and Thomas Cook management.

Meanwhile, Thomas Cook Group slightly increased revenues and reduced seasonal operating losses in the half-year ending March 2015, driven by better results in the UK and at German airline Condor, but Central Europe remained below last year. Group revenues increased by 1.2% to £2.74 billion on a like-for-like basis while underlying operating losses were reduced by 9% to £173 million. Group-wide bookings for summer 2015 were described as “encouraging”, with goods sales for the fourth quarter peak season (July – September) but softer demand for the April – June third quarter.

In Germany, Thomas Cook continues to see tough trading conditions and later booking trends. In the first half-year, revenues dropped 1.3% to £673 million due to weaker demand and competitive conditions and there was a slight £1 million loss compared to a £6 million profit one year earlier. In response, Cook has increased the level of flexible capacity to respond to weaker market demand. “As we have previously indicated, the market in Germany remains competitive with consequent pressures on margins, although with an improving outlook for the fourth quarter,” the company stated.

In contrast, Condor is performing well at present, with a 9% increase in bookings and stable average prices for summer 2015. “This reflects a similar increase in capacity, mainly to long haul destinations, where we have a strong customer proposition following the cabin refurbishments in our long haul fleet. The success of our long haul business has mitigated trading pressures in the short/medium haul market such that average prices are in line with last year and seat load factors have improved slightly,” the company stated. In the first half-year Condor’s revenues increased 6% to £563 million and last year’s £6 million operating loss was turned to a £1 million profit.