Discounts win travel agents sales bonanza

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TRAVEL agencies are reporting a sales bonanza as holidaymakers snap up the unprecedented 11 per cent discounts offered by Lunn Poly, Going Places and Thomas Cook, writes John Shepherd.

The sharp increase has been detected by AT&T Istel, which provides screen-based holiday information in more than 7,000 travel agency branches in the UK.

Ian Bullen, managing director, said the system recorded a 112 per cent increase in traffic between travel agents and tour operators the week after the discounts were launched on 27 December.

The findings are backed by Thomas Cook, the third-largest travel agent with 360 branches. Peter Shanks said: 'Our sales have risen 120 per cent, and we believe the total number of holidays sold is up 50 per cent on last year.'

He said the overall increase could result in growth of 12 per cent in the number of summer 1994 holidays to more than 13 million. AT&T Istel's findings also showed that traffic on its system in the week before the discounts were offered fell 32 per cent, indicating some consumers were holding back in expectation of cuts.

Mr Shanks admitted there was a danger that holidaymakers could again delay booking next Christmas, putting pressure on the travel agencies to cut prices.

Lunn Poly, the 700-strong chain of agencies owned by Thomson, tested the discount waters a year ago by offering 10 per cent off holidays for a week only.

This year, however, the company has not been allowed to steal a march on the market, with its discounts matched by Going Places, the second-largest agency with 550 branches owned by Airtours, and also by Cook.

Going Places and Lunn Poly have extended the deadline of 8 January until this weekend.

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