LUNN Poly has angered retailers by recruiting a team of merchandisers to promote summer 2000 holidays to tourists in Majorca.
The multiple has taken the unprecedented step of handing out leaflets to holidaymakers in key resorts, including hotels where they are permitted access.
The leaflets feature a pre-paid, tear-off postcard on which clients detail their holiday requirements and names and addresses.
On returning from their holidays, they are then sent welcome home mailings offering discounts off next summer's holidays.
Eight poster sites advertising summer 2000 have also been displayed in the departure areas at Palma Airport.
Co-op Travel general manager Mike Greenacre predicted the move would further alienate both Preferred and non-Preferred Agents. "Advertising at the airport is one thing but targeting our customers has gone beyond what we think is acceptable."
Bakers Dolphin managing director Kevin Abbey said the initiative smacked of desperation by Lunn Poly.
"It could get a bit silly with Going Places, Thomas Cook and First Choice's retail arm sending their merchandisers to resort. But as a Preferred Agent, I don't have a problem with it. It is good to see people being innovative."
Midconsort chief executive Sue Foxall said: "This is poaching the independent travel agent's business. It is taking things just a bit too far."
Bath Travel joint managing director Stephen Bath slammed Lunn Poly's tactics. "I don't want it pestering our clients on holiday. It is unfair and foul play to nobble our customers when they are abroad." Bath, also ABTA Travel Agents' Council chairman, said he would raise the issue at the next TACmeeting.
Lunn Poly marketing controller Paul Kendrick defended its move. "Everything we are doing is totally above board. If other retailers want to do it they can. Preferred Agents are our competitors as much as anyone else," he said.
He said it was ridiculous that Lunn Poly was spending money on advertising on TV and in the press while a lot of its customers are actually on holiday.
He said the idea was the result of a brainstorming day of senior management, including managing director Nigel David, who was previously holiday servicesdirector.
"We were leafletting clients to advertise our Getaway shop in Coventry and thought why not do this in resort," said Kendrick.
He added the trial scheme could be extended to other resorts if successful. Merchandisers may also be sent to Palma Airport to give out the leaflets, which also offer £10 booking discount per person and entry to a free prize draw.
In a further attempt to boost summer 2000 market share, Lunn Poly is offering a 'no deposit until February' scheme in its branches.
Going Places deputy managing director Paul Evans, who has also introduced a no-deposit scheme backed by 15% discounts, said he would not rule out similar tactics to Lunn Poly in resort.
In a snapshot of one week's trading last week, industry figures show Lunn Poly had 43% of all UKbusiness for summer 2000, compared with 27% in the same week last year. Going Places was down from 15% to 12% while Thomas Cook is down from 10% to 8%.
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