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
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: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£16575 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity is ava...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue