Owners Abroad changes identity

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The Independent Online
HOLIDAY brand names including Enterprise, Sunmed, Twentys and Falcon will disappear from travel agents in a pounds 5bn overhaul by Owners Abroad, one of the leading tour operators.

The company is trying to stem loss of market share by changing its name to First Choice Holidays and reducing its main holiday brand names from more than half a dozen to three.

Francis Baron, chief executive, said the group's share of the summer holiday market had dropped from 16 per cent in 1992 to 12 per cent this year. The rebranding, along with advertising and gimmicks such as 20,000 free child places and 1,000 free granny places, are part of a drive to claw back customers and profit margins from next summer onwards.

The company faces fierce competition from rivals including Thomson and Airtours. Next year's holiday brochures from some operators are already in the shops with promises of discounts. Thomson has said it will cut the price of 750,000 holidays in 1995.

Mr Baron said that the name Owners Abroad confused people, with many assuming it is a timeshare company. He added that its major brand names were recognised by only 3 per cent of people in a recent survey while Thomson achieved 55 per cent awareness.

'Our brands have little or no consumer value and cannot generate sales through consumer demand pull. The need for change is unanswerable,' he said.

In future, the group will sell holidays in three categories. The value-for-money holidays, with a family bias, will be sold under the First Choice umbrella brand. Another new brand, Free Spirit, has been created for couples, singles and mixed groups who do not like putting up with children on holiday. The only old brand to be retained is Sovereign, which will cover 'premium' holidays for people who put quality first and value for money second, typically aged over 30 and possibly with families.

The company's initial aim is to take back a 1 per cent market share in summer 1995 and to build up the numbers of early-bookings to reduce last-minute discounting.

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