Market Leaders Pick Their Market Leader: Who's Britain's best holiday maker?

Chris Mottershead

Managing Director

Airtours

I'VE BEEN in the tour operator business for the past 10 years and it has consistently proved to be a challenge. You have to be one step ahead because there are so many factors involved in the packaging of a holiday that are outside your control - hurricanes, for example. The unexpected adds a whole new dimension to running a business. You also have to be able to respond to your customers.

The biggest change in our industry over the years has been through consolidation, the significant improvement in the quality of holidays and the pricing can be put down to the healthy competition it encourages. In the face of all this competition, if you want to succeed you have to innovate and have an eye for something different. It also helps to have a great team. I think Airtours has an impressive team led by David Crossland and is the best in the business.

Christopher Kirker

Managing Director

Kirker Holidays

THE TRAVEL industry has changed enormously while I've been involved in it. More people travel these days; the business is more professional. Those who are now running the large companies have a different perspective on travel - the large companies now seem to be run by accountants rather than entrepreneurs. The industry is in danger of losing its touch.

The customer wants exceptional and personal service when choosing and booking holidays and the big companies don't appreciate that. You really need to concentrate 100 per cent on customer service and understand what people are looking for. Of those who are in the industry at the moment Roger Heape, managing director of British Airways Holidays. He has really been a guiding light to me. I admire his 100 per cent commitment to the business and to aspects beyond the business such as the effect of tourism on the environment.

Danny Talbot

Product Director

Cosmos

THE BUSINESS has changed a lot in the 20 years I've been in it. As each year goes by, value for money gets better and standards and destinations are improving. The industry has become more responsible as a result of internal and consumer pressure.

We are trying to create a trend of brand loyalty - most travellers are still price led. What this means is that we have to create something that will differentiate our holidays from the others available. To do this you have to maintain a strong sense of creativity and keep an open mind as to the product you might offer.

The industry is full of characters, not faceless accountants, although some companies are moving in that direction. One pioneer in this generation has been David Crossland, chief executive at Airtours - a man who started as a little travel agent and now is running a multi-million pound business. He's gutsy and go-getting. There are fewer and fewer of these characters.

Noel Josephides

Managing Director

Sunvil Holidays

IT IS ironic that in many ways our industry hasn't changed over time - it has simply been condensed into fewer hands - four in particular. The mentality of selling holidays is still the same: stack them high and sell them cheap. Now the industry has reached saturation and profitability will return only with a large collapse.

Those four companies who control 80 per cent of the market have suffered a fall in their profit margins but the smaller, specialist independents remain more or less unaffected.

The large companies can't give what the people want so they are attempting to buy into the specialist market. To succeed in the travel industry, you need to be consistent and the British public knows it won't consistently find what it wants through the big companies.

So I am optimistic about the prospects of the independents. I don't admire anybody in any of the big name companies. I admire people who understand the niche market - Explore Worldwide, for example, has got it right. Simply Travel is also a competitor which developed a marketable niche product under the charge of Graham Simpson. It has now been bought up by Thomson but he's still there. He may be a competitor but he got it right and I admire that.

Roger Heape

Managing Director

British Airways Holidays

IT IS a most exciting time to be in the travel business. The model has changed - something it hasn't done for 25 years. Now there are new opportunities and challenges springing up all over the place.

The advent of e-commerce and tailor-made holidays is providing new opportunities for development. On a downside, it is a huge challenge to manage the impact of tourism on the environment. We can't just legislate overnight to stop it, we have to take little steps to minimise its impact.

To lead the market, you need to understand the customer and respond to their needs, and try to anticipate their needs. You also have to deliver good quality and service. Thomson is doing good things in the industry - they consistently offer high quality. And David Crossland at Airtours has also been a great success.

Simon Laxton

Managing Director

Thomas Cook Holidays

THE CONSOLIDATION of the industry has provided a challenge to the big operators because it encouraged the small independents to work far more aggressively and in a more targeted manner. This provides stiff competition for us big companies. Just because we're at the top of the industry doesn't mean we are the best.

Making money in this industry is very hard: our margins are slim and our customers expect high standards. The challenge to provide these have to be met and even exceeded if possible. It is vital to deliver on your promises.

Airtours has done a remarkable job expanding and are a highly focused company. In general, if a company provides stiff competition, they deserve to be admired.

Sue Biggs

Managing Director

Kuoni UK

THE TRAVEL industry has changed a great deal during the 17 years I've been at Kuoni. We've expanded but so has the travel industry. Travel used to be the preserve of the wealthy few and now it is practically the norm. As a result we have more competitors. But that is ultimately a good thing because it keeps us on our toes. To succeed in the industry you need to do what you do well and care deeply about it. To say you need an interest in people and in places is probably stating the obvious, but the industry is all about people. To excel you have to be constantly looking for something that's better - change management I believe they call it these days.

I admire those people who manage to combine innovation professionalism and fun in their operations and I believe Mike Gooley managed to do this with Trailfinders by taking a simple idea - the backpacking holiday - and using innovation to create a very professional and very popular product.

Mike Gooley

Chairman

Trailfinders

THE INDUSTRY we're in is probably one of the most challenging of all service industries. We are held accountable for every aspect of customer satisfaction. And customer expectation has risen over the years since 1970, partly because of the increase in competition. To succeed you must work hard, take the business seriously and be obsessive about it.

It's also important to be totally honest with your customer staff and suppliers. You can't deliver customer satisfaction otherwise.

Trailfinders has only recently embarked on the tailor-made holiday and I think we stand apart from other tour operators in the way we put them together. We are alternative and don't set out to imitate the others. Also I'm not that familiar with them.

Airtours, obviously, under the aegis of David Crossland is massively successful but I think we lead our niche.

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

Technical Support Analyst (C++, Windows, Linux, Perl, Graduate)

£30000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A global leader in trading platforms and e...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice