Thomson lobbies to keep Lunn Poly brand name

Thomson, the UK's largest tour operator, has stepped up its campaign against proposals by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission to loosen ties between tour operators and travel agents.
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The Independent Online
Thomson is today launching another advertising campaign in the travel trade press in its effort to persuade the MMC to allow it to keep the Lunn Poly name for its chain of travel agents. The advertisements highlight the results of an independent survey of travel agents conducted by NOP on behalf of Thomson which shows that a large majority of agents believe that re-branding Lunn Poly would harm their own businesses. They fear that they would lose custom if the changes were forced through.

Some 92 per cent of agents fear that customers wanting to buy a Thomson holiday would most likely go to a travel agent called Thomson Holiday Shop; 71 per cent believe the re-naming of travel agencies will harm their businesses; and 61 per cent think the changes will lead to closures and redundancies among independent travel agents if the big tour operators chose to sell their products exclusively through their own shops. Three- quarters of those surveyed believe creating Thomson Holiday Shops will have an overall negative effect on the travel industry. Most agents are also against the idea of calling the chain Lunn Poly Thomson Holiday Shops.

Thomson is looking to launch a national advertising campaign within the next few months to set out its case against the MMC proposals to its customers.

Thomson has also renewed its ferocious attack on the Association of Independent Tour Operators (Aito) which has lobbied the MMC to change the current links between travel agents and tour operators.

A spokesman for Thomson said: "Aito members predominantly sell directly to customers and don't use travel agents. They don't care what happens to travel agents and they would benefit directly from the reduction in holiday discounts for customers."

Aito denied the allegations. Paul Chandler, its chairman, said: "A monopoly is bad for the long-term interests of the consumer and something must be done about it. Re-branding travel agents is not a priority and we have presented a range of confidential proposals to the MMC ..."