Exclusive: Expedia’s Breakwell resurfaces at Thomas Cook

Simon Breakwell, former EMEA vice president for Expedia, is currently advising Thomas Cook on its plans to become a major European online travel agent.

The appointment became public knowledge this week at Thomas Cook plc’s investor day, when Breakwell was named as a key “senior hire”. He also presented Thomas Cook’s online growth strategy to analysts.

A Thomas Cook spokesperson explained that Breakwell had been working as a consultant with Thomas Cook for six or seven months, “Initially he was brought in to see whether our plans were viable,” she said.

“We have decided that they are, and Simon will continue to work with us on an advisory basis moving forward.”

The City was told that a dedicated European online travel agency could generate incremental sales for Thomas Cook of between £3bn and £3.5bn per annum with revenues of around £400m.

The group is aiming towards a European roll-out for its OTA at the back-end of 2011.

The OTA will be based around Thomas Cook branded sites, described as “retail sites selling in-house product  and acting as agent for third parties”.

A key focus in advance of the roll-out is to build up Thomas Cook’s city hotel inventory, Breakwell said.

Breakwell’s appointment is a coup for Thomas Cook. He was involved with Expedia from the outset when the OTA was owned by Microsoft.

He is understood to have cold-called Bill Gates in 1996, suggesting ways in which Microsoft could get into online travel.

As a result, Breakwell left his then employer British Airways, and relocated to Seattle to work with the Microsoft team which launched Expedia in the US in 1998.

He was in charge of all of Expedia Inc’s operations in the EMEA region when he left the business in 2006.

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