Thomson Holidays, the UK’s largest tour operator, is setting up an Internet supermarket to sell both its own and competitors’ holidays direct.
Industry observers expect the venture to operate as a separate brand, although the Thomson name is likely to figure in some capacity.
The tour operator is seeking a marketing director and managing director to develop the new business, which will see it offering competitors’ products for the first time.
At present, Thomson does not offer its holidays direct. It uses travel agents such as sister company Lunn Poly.
But its parent, the Thomson Travel Group, also owns direct tour operator Portland Direct, which sells Portland-branded holidays by phone. Sources say Thomson set up the company with a separate brand name to avoid antagonising travel agents.
The new operation is expected to operate as a separate brand for the same reason.
Thomson Holidays deputy managing director Shaun Powell declined to comment.
The revelation comes at a time of increased competition in the travel sector, in the shape of new cost-cutting airlines such as easyJet and Go and Net agents such as Microsoft’s Expedia.
Thomson recently announced its third profits warning of the year, blaming it on lower-than-expected demand over the New Year period.