Paul de Laat, previewing a speech he will give at the Travel Technology Initiative conference in March, said Thomas Cook's CRM strategy increased business among its top customers by 60% in just two years.
"The travel industry needs CRM more than ever," he said, "because retaining customers is five times less expensive than winning new ones."
According to de Laat, investing in expensive front-office systems that handle different types of customers is not enough.
"CRM is not about gadgets - it is about revolutionising the way we do business from top to bottom," he said. "The industry must become more customer-focused and tailor its entire operation - from products to training - to meet customers' needs. Effective CRM should form the backbone of this process."
In addition, de Laat said, the travel industry must invest in CRM systems that enable all parts of a business - from retail outlets to call centres - to address customers' needs.
"When it comes to buying travel, today's customers want to walk, talk and click," he said. "So the CRM systems of the future must integrate with all aspects of the customer journey. If not, they will not be worth the cost of a mouse pad."