Airtours UK Leisure Group is moving into the direct travel sector with the launch of Space, a new division aimed at the independent travel market.
Space went live last week and offers flight and hotel booking, travel news, insurance policies, car hire and currency conversion.
Bookings can be made 24 hours a day by telephone. Product information can be accessed online, although the Website will not become transactional until next year.
The company is running newspaper ads created by CDP, which also named and branded the venture.
Space marketing manager Rachael Anderson says: “This operation fills a gap in Airtours product portfolio. We offer package holidays through our Going Places retail network and operate tours through the Airtours brand. It will tap into the growing independent travel market.”
The direct travel market grew by 40 per cent to 11.5 million holidays in 1996, according to Airtours. The company is the UK’s second largest tour operator after Thomson Travel Group.
Anderson says the Space brand could potentially be stretched into a whole range of products.
MORI head of leisure research Andy Martin comments: “I suspect Airtours is using Space to experiment with a direct operation. It could also be using Space as an opportunity to target a trendier, more upmarket customer than Airtours, which is traditionally viewed as a two-weeks-in-Spain type of operator.”