Independent agents fear they will have little choice but to stop selling a growing number of popular hotels that are agreeing exclusive deals with Thomson.
By May 2013, 90% of Thomson product will be exclusive to the operator, up from about 63% for summer 2012.
Many hotels popular with independent agents – such as Barcelo Fuerteventura; Insotel Punta Prima and Punta Prima Prestige Suites & Spa in Minorca; and Insotel Fenicia Prestige in Ibiza – will only be available from Thomson in the UK.
Designer Travel managing director Amanda Matthews claimed it would be difficult for independent agents to make a decent margin by selling these hotels because they would have to eat into their own commission to compete with Thomson’s online discounts.
Discounting on Thomson’s website reached 10% over the summer but has now been reduced to 5%, according to Matthews, who fears it could increase again for summer 2013.
“Thomson’s online discounting will cause some problems for independent agents,” she said.
“We can book the hotels, but on a lesser margin with less flexibility. If they went back to high discounts we could not live on 1% commission; we would have to lose the booking or switch hotels.”
Advantage chief executive John McEwan said agents had to accept “commercial life” but admitted: “If there was a more reasonable level of online discount [on its website] more agents would be content to sell that product.”
Operator Classic Collection said it would “cosy up” to neighbouring hotels after losing eight or nine of its 650 properties to Thomson.
“We are not thrilled about it; we will lose some business,” said managing director Nick Munday.
Garry Wilson, Thomson’s product and purchasing director, said: “We hope third-party agents selling our ‘concept’ products such as Holiday Village will be advocates for the exclusivity strategy. We continually review agent commissions and welcome the contribution that third‑party agents make to our business.”
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