In an interview with ITTN’s Neil Steedman, Helen Caron, Director of Ireland for Falcon Holidays, expects further products to join Holiday Villages and Splash World in the Falcon portfolio and declares herself to be “a big advocate” of the Falcon and Thomson retail shops.
During your 12 years with First Choice, what has been your impression of Falcon/JWT/Thomson’s development in the Republic and Northern Ireland?
Our Irish based business has always had an excellent reputation within First Choice and in TUI and is seen as an important part of the organisation. Although my contact with Ireland was limited before I moved into this role, I have always been aware that we operated strong brands under an experienced local management team catering specifically for the Irish customer.
Falcon is a strong brand and the team here has done a great job in providing quality value holidays to the Irish market for more than 20 years. We have also been pleased with how the Thomson brand has been received in Ireland, with sales exceeding our expectations in the first year.
Having been here now for two months, I can see that the business has responded well to the challenges of the current economic environment and I am looking forward to building on the platform that already exists here. The introduction of Holiday Villages and Splash World to the Falcon portfolio has been successful and further product developments like this can be expected.
How do you see operations in Dublin and Belfast developing? Will they become even more integrated?
Our Dublin and Belfast operations already work very well together. With just eight weeks under my belt, it’s too early for me to make any predictions as to how things will develop or if there is room for further integration. What I do know at this stage is that I’m very impressed with how the company operates in its current structure and with the experience, knowledge and passion for the business that the teams have in both locations and in our retail shops. If I believe I can make any improvements then I will certainly look to do so.
How many Thomson Shops in the North and how many Falcon Shops in the Republic do you envisage by end-2012 and by 2017?
There are currently 33 Falcon Shops nationwide (in the Republic of Ireland), including our franchise partners, and 12 Thomson Shops in Northern Ireland. It’s too early for me to start making predictions on the future size and shape of our retail estate – however, I am a big advocate of our retail business. Research has shown us that while customers increasingly research their holiday on the web, many of them still prefer to make their final choice with the help of an experienced travel consultant.
Do you expect Falcon/JWT and Thomson to continue to be promoted as separate brands?
The Falcon and Thomson brands are very different propositions – one is targeted towards the family market, the other more geared towards the adult market. For those reasons we will continue to invest in them separately so that the customer understands the proposition. We haven’t done anything with the JWT brand in a couple of years and it is unlikely that we will do anything with it in the near future.
How would you like to see relationships with the travel consortia, in the Republic and Northern Ireland, develop in the short term?
The team at Falcon already have some excellent relationships with the trade and I expect those to continue. Personally, I hope to meet with all travel organisations that are relevant to our business in the next few weeks.
Where did you take your last holiday – and would you go back?
My last ‘holiday’ was in the Maldives. We have been there several times now and yes I would love to go back. It’s a place I can instantly relax. Once you step off the seaplane it really is another world – laid back, relaxed and informal plus the standard of food and service is excellent. I’m an avid reader so chilling out on a sun bed with a great selection of books is my idea of heaven!
What are your favourite parts in Ireland?
I first came to Ireland over 20 years ago when I was lucky enough to visit Donegal. I have some great memories of that trip and I would love to return. I’m also enjoying being based in Dublin. It’s a vibrant city and is a huge contrast to where my previous office was – at the end of the runway at Luton Airport!
What makes you happy and what makes you mad?
Family and friends, the sun shining and a spot of retail therapy make me happy. Being let down, aggressive drivers and having to queue all make me mad!