SO once again the independent agent is under threat from the multiples' domination. What is it this time? Your front page story about the TVTravel Shop (Travel Weekly August 30).
You report that Airtours, Thomas Cook and First Choice are each interested in taking a stake, but I was astonished to read that they are prepared to pay in the region of £25m for 25% of the company.
That values the TVTravel Shop at £100m - and for a company that has never even posted profits.
This is another example of a company being vastly overvalued simply because it uses the Internet (echoes of Freeserve), this time to sell holidays. So much for the skills of the independent agent.
I am also surprised that they would want to be involved with the programme. Have any of them actually watched it? The presentation is dull and gives the impression that they are flogging off cheap holidays - as if we need more of that. I must admit to being heartened (just slightly)to learn that their average selling price for a Unijet holiday is £800.
But my main concern is whether a large tour operator should be allowed to buy a stake in a company like this. We all know what will happen.
The Travel Shop will become another Going Places, Thomas Cook or even an on-line Holiday Hypermarket pushing more of their parent company's holidays down the throats of the great British public and dealing another blow for consumer choice and the independent retailer.
I trust the Competition Commission will look very closely at any sign of a deal of this kind coming about. If it will not, I suggest we should all just give up now.
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