Pride of place for favoured firms

WHEN you step into the Lunn Poly travel shop in London's High Holborn there is nothing to indicate that the agency is owned by the Thomson group, writes Frank Barrett.

However you would not need the deductive powers of Sherlock Holmes to work out that Thomson is the favoured tour operator. Of the 156 brochure 'facings', one-fifth are devoted to Thomson brochures. The Thomson products also get pride of place, situated at eye level to grab the attention.

Of the remaining facings, Owners Abroad accounts for 15 spaces and Airtours has 10. This means that the three biggest tour operators have one-third of the available space.

In all, the office promotes only about 50 operators, including ferry and cruise companies - probably less than 5 per cent of the total number of companies offering inclusive package holidays abroad.

If you cannot guess the commercial links from the brochures on view, further clues are provided by the counter staff. A recent survey carried out for the BBC programme Breakaway checked on 11 Lunn Poly agencies: in all cases, inquirers were offered a Thomson holiday. At Airtours-owned Pickford, an Airtours package was offered 9 times out of 11.

The promotion of 'own brand' products has intensified since the Airtours acquisition of Pickfords. Airtours began an incentives war by offering all Pickfords counter staff a pounds 3 bonus for every Airtours holiday sold. Thomson followed suit.

The main multiples make no secret that they restrict the range of products to those operators prepared to pay extra commission. Operators wishing to sell through Lunn Poly will normally have to pay commission of up to 15 or 16 per cent, compared with the industry standard of 10 per cent.

Some independent agencies, however, believe it is their duty to offer consumers as wide a choice as possible. For example, the Real Holidays travel agency in London's Essex Road 'racks' more than 600 tour operators. Philip Davies, the owner, said the role of agencies like his was to represent the smaller specialist tour operator who is not racked in the multiples. 'We believe we offer the sort of good impartial advice that consumers want,' Mr Davies said.

But Real Holidays is unusual. Small specialist tour operators are increasingly aware that the only way to develop sales is to sell direct. For those prepared to scour the classified columns of newspapers, the choice is growing - for the consumer who patronises the high street agencies, the choice has never been more limited.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there