February 12, 2001
HEADLINE: Philosophy flak jacket. Manuel
Mascarenhas is sales director of Thomson Holidays. He
spoke to SARA MACEFIELD
Having shrugged off death threats when he worked for
British Airways in Nigeria, it's not surprising that Thomson
sales chief Manuel Mascarenhas is philosophical about
his past rocky relations with agents.
He knew it was never going to be easy to balance Thomson's
plans against the needs of retailers, but he has no regrets.
"I have thoroughly enjoyed my two years here,"
"It is great working for a company that is totally
committed to its customers. And now we have seen our way
through a difficult period, I think it is going to be
But just over a year ago, it was a different story. Profit
warnings, a faltering share price and the exit of former
chief executive Paul Brett severely damaged Thomson's
And things were barely any better in the trade as relations
with Thomson's retail partners sank to an all-time low.
As the company's trade face who was seen to be pushing
through controversial changes, Mr Mascarenhas was the
target for a lot of flak.
"The flak I don't mind if it is constructive,"
"Life is a learning experience and we move on."
Comments such as this reflect Mr Mascarenhas's positive
outlook - one he needed when he moved to this country
from Uganda in 1967 with his Goan parents and attended
an all-white boys' grammar school in Sidcup, Kent.
He joined BA in 1979 as a graduate trainee from Bristol
Polytechnic. Ten years later he returned to Africa, and
spent "two lovely years" in Nigeria - despite
the death threats.
With an area covering 26 countries, Mr Mascarenhas found
himself making sales calls by boat to key agents spread
from the heart of Kinshasa to the Congo.
A previous posting to Oman in 1986 had taken Mr Mascarenhas
to the emirate for three years - a time he recalls fondly.
His adventures abroad ended in 1991 when he was recalled
to the UK to work under BA marketing director Martin George.
Various marketing posts followed, which included setting
up BA's marketing services division and leisure retail
division. Then in 1998, Thomson approached him for a second
"When they first approached me in 1996, I wasn't
ready," admits Mr Mascarenhas.
"This was a big decision, but I was keen to maintain
my profile with the UK trade. And I would not have considered
any other company because it was the market leader and
I had already worked for a market leader in BA."
Having been offered the role of national sales manager,
with the promise of a directorship, Mr Mascarenhas joined
in April 1998 and was elevated to sales director seven
The rest is history. But as Mr Mascarenhas enthusiastically
describes his 18-year career at BA and his tumultuous
time at Thomson, it is easy to sense the passion that
motivates him in whatever he does - whether he's behind
his desk or dancing until dawn at ABTA conventions.
It doesn't end there. As a family man with two daughters,
Mr Mascarenhas also puts his negotiating skills to good
use as a marriage counsellor.
And his attitude to his favourite sports of tennis and
cricket is to play well and with panache - a philosophy
that he has clearly adopted elsewhere in his life.