TWO OF the longest established names in high street travel retailing vanished this week when Pickfords Travel and Hogg Robinson merged under the name Going Places. The new retail chain, with about 550 branches, is now the second biggest, and is owned by Airtours, Britain's second biggest tour operator. The biggest retail chain, Lunn Poly, is owned by the biggest operator, Thomson.
The 333 shops of Pickfords, which has been associated with the travel business since the beginning of the century, were sold to Airtours in September 1992. Hogg Robinson was formed shortly after the last war: its 210 holiday shops were bought by Airtours in June 1993. A third agency group, the nine-strong Hourmont Travel, a part of Pickfords since 1987, will also join the Going Places chain.
Tour operators are expecting a tough year and competition is fierce - not only in price-cutting. In response to Thomson's announcement last month that it plans to sell its holidays through stores such as Marks & Spencer and building society offices, Airtours has warned that it may decline to sell Thomson's cheaper holidays via its Going Places shops. It seems clear that 1994 will be another bruising year in the travel business.
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