... but it could pay to tell truth

Holiday company launches brochure by admitting not all resorts are perfect
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The Independent Online
Travel companies will stop at nothing, it seems, to try to sell holidays. The latest gimmick involves a novel idea - telling the truth about resorts and hotels.

A new range of "honest" brochures saying exactly what holidaymakers think of resorts and hotels was launched yesterday by Thomson, Britain's biggest tour operator. People considering Lloret on the Spanish Costa Brava, for instance, will learn that "charm is not a word that springs to mind when talking about Lloret".

The Indonesian island of Bali is "all slightly ramshackle", Ibiza is "big, noisy and sometimes rowdy" and the Sandals resort in Jamaica's Montego Bay offers "some aircraft noise".

This frank approach was announced as the company launched four brochures for the 1997 holiday season. Chris Rendel, chief executive of advertising agency FCB, praised Thomson's approach as a "very courageous and very intelligent piece of marketing".

"What Thomson has done is say to the consumer 'we're not so stupid as to sell you something which we know you know is not true'. People are a lot smarter these days and they'll appreciate this sort of strategy."

A spokeswoman for Thomson said the company wanted to paint the best picture possible based on how customers rated their holiday last year. "If any resort or hotel was really awful in all respects we would drop it from our brochure," she said. "These newly-published opinions give people who like good food or lots of peace and quiet, for example, a chance to find out exactly what they can expect.

"We are confident enough not to think these opinions will put people off. A place being described as noisy and lively could be absolute hell for one holidaymaker but just perfect for another."

n The latest casualty in the diplomatic onslaught by the United States against Cuba is the British holidaymaker, writes Simon Calder. Thomson is refusing to sell its holidays to the Caribbean island while the threat of legal action from Washington persists.

Thomson is concerned about the provisions of the Helms-Burton Act, which introduces penalties against companies trading with Cuba, including the denial of US visas to directors and their families.

"We're not putting the holidays on sale until we've got clearance from the Foreign Office that it's safe to do so," said Thomson's managing director, Charles Newbold.

Several other UK operators are continuing to sell holidays in Cuba, including Regent Holidays of Bristol.