Thomas Cook India, which reported its highest ever annual pre tax profit of ₹344 crore in FY24. While the company is seeing strong volume growth, it is also planning to introduce artificial intelligence solutions in travel space to grow sales, company’s MD & CEO Mahesh Iyer, tells businessline.


Q) Thomas Cook India posted a consolidated income from operations of Rs 7435 crore in FY 24 which is higher than income in FY 19. Thus has the company’s business fully recovered to pre-Covid level ?

A) At an overall level there is full recovery in terms of income from operations. However there are segments which have still not fully recovered. We expect to see full recovery in long haul business in FY 2025. Our corporate travel portfolio has done better than the pre-pandemic period. We had a fantastic year in meetings, incentive, conference and exhibition (MICE) segment. This has improved our overall volumes and profitability.


Q) The company’s revenue from operations declined on a standalone basis but increased on a consolidated level in Q4. Why?

A) During the fourth quarter of last year we had business from G-20 and Khelo India events. So there is an impact on volumes this year. While the topline income hasn’t grown, our margins have improved substantially. Our retail businesses - both foreign exchange and holidays have contributed to profitability and margins.


Q) Are we seeing improvement in Thomas Cook’s overseas destination management business?

A) We have seen a smart recovery in our destination management business in the US, South East Asia, Dubai and Africa. Costs have been reined in. Profitability has improved. A lot of these entities were loss making in 2019 but now have become break even or are profitable.


Q) What growth trends are we expecting in FY 2025?

A) In terms of forward bookings, our holiday business is trending 18 per cent higher than last summer. Volume growth is clearly visible. Europe continues to be a favourite destination and short haul markets have come back strongly.


Q) What are company plans for artificial intelligence in the travel sector?

A) We are looking at artificial intelligence solutions (AI) to grow our sales. We are evaluating multiple options and have started exploratory talks to select credible partners. We should be able to have a beta version in the third quarter of FY 25. In the travel space a lot of AI is being used at the back end but we are looking at the front end. A lot of search engines give you itineraries but planning and pricing them is the most difficult part. We believe Thomas Cook and a credible partner in AI can bring in the best of both worlds. This we hope will help convert conversations with potential customers into actual business and thus augment our sales channels.


Q) Are you looking at any acquisitions ?

A) We had cash and bank balance of Rs 1510 crore as on March end but this includes Rs 1155 crore which was collected from customers on sale of pre-paid forex card. So that is restricted cash. Our cash on books is Rs 350 crore. Our recovery has been strong and we have the ability to generate cash. The focus now is to ensure that balance sheet remains strong and we are not looking at any acquisitions at the moment.