Airtours earmarks £100m for e-commerce plans

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Airtours, the UK's second-ranked tour operator, yesterday announced plans to step up its internet strategy and unveiled its image of a brave new world of holiday travel.

The group plans to roll out its mytravelco US website worldwide to let customers buy holidays and travel-related products through the internet, mobile phones and television sets. Airtours will spend £100m on e-commerce over the next three years but hopes to save £25m a year from reduced distribution costs.

David Crossland, Airtours' chairman, said: "In the next 20 years, all the paper will go out of travel.... There will be no more queuing at airports or taking your luggage with you. Instead, your cases can be delivered ahead of you to your hotel room or you can order new clothes and have them hanging in your wardrobe on arrival."

But Mr Crossland's enthusiasm was not contagious. Andrew Hunter, at Merrill Lynch, said: "I wasn't bowled over by the plans." Airtours shares closed down 2p at 308p.

Separately yesterday, Airtours confirmed it was in talks with the Swiss group SAir about combining their German operations.

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