Airtours puts 5m into direct-selling division

Airtours Holidays is putting 5m-plus behind the launch of a direct-selling division that will compete head-on with Thomas Cook’s Portland and First Choice’s Eclipse brands.

Although the launch is shrouded in secrecy, an Airtours spokeswoman says: “We are always looking at opportunities for the group. An increasing number of customers book their holidays direct with us.”

In the past, the holiday outfit has been criticised by travel agents for selling packages by Teletext cheaper than high street companies.

Last month, Airtours tried to buy Direct Holidays but the 32m bid was rejected. Direct Holidays sells over the phone at a 15 per cent discount by wiping out travel agents’ commissions.

The Airtours group – which comprises Going Places, Eurosites, Escapades, Aspro and Tradewinds – currently uses Advertising Principles and Connectpoint for above-the-line advertising and GGT Direct for below the line.

Media is bought by The Media Business North and Mediavest Manchester.

Airtours is understood to be talking to direct marketing agencies about the launch of the new division.

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