Thomas Cook appoints Chief Digital Officer


Thomas Cook brings back the Chief Digital Officer role and makes a new hire in the appointment of Gilles Despas. He will join the business on February 1 and will also sit on the company’s Group Executive Committee.

The role, previously held by Marco Ryan, had been scrapped last summer, when Thomas Cook said it had become ‘obsolete’.

It said the role and current scope of chief digital officer was no longer required and Ryan, who had been brought in by former CEO Harriet Green, had agreed to step down.

“Although ‘Digital’ remains a key enabler of the Thomas Cook Group strategy, a subtle but important shift in the digital transformation story places greater emphasis on operational control and business performance,” said the announcement at that time.

But the position has now been re-created and will see Despas take responsibility for digital sales performance and ‘lead on the strategy for all future digital development and delivery’.

“The continued development of Thomas Cook Group’s digital offering is central to the company’s strategy for profitable growth and Gilles will help it further develop its online presence in order to provide customers with the best experience, however and wherever they choose to interact with the company,” said a statement today.

Clarifying why the role had previously been scrapped, a spokesman said the focus at that time had been on ‘digital transformation’ but now the role would focus on ‘driving operational excellence in customer experience and continuing to grow digital as a key part of the development of our multi-channel strategy’.
Despas joins Thomas Cook Group from Germany-based HolidayCheck AG, where he was chief executive.

Prior to that he worked for travel brands including STA Travel and, where was managing director Continental Europe for 10 years.
He will be based at Thomas Cook’s headquarters in London, taking over from interim group head of digital operations, Graham Cook, who took on the role in August 2015.

Thomas Cook Group said it was hopeful Graham will remain with the company and is ‘working closely with him to explore new opportunities within the business while he conducts a detailed handover with Gilles to ensure a smooth transition’.