Noel Josephides' Regular Column

Noel Josephides' Regular Column

The general mopping up of the industry continues. Even to avid watchers like myself it is now so confusing that it has become an office joke.

We have arguments as to who owns whom. Thankfully, retail miniple chains which have also been purchased still do book with us from time to time.

There really does not seem to be a fixed policy as to what they should or should not sell, which suits us fine.

Of course, so many operators have been purchased that the range of products on offer in multiples which practice directional selling is now so wide that one wonders if there is any point in quarrelling with the whole concept any more.

It all makes it easier for a Government which has really washed its hands of the whole matter. As ever, the stable door is closed after the horse has bolted.

There is no doubt that Thomson had got it all wrong over the last few years. Its stance is now softening and it is doing deals both with retail consortia and continuing to buy retail outlets in order to boost its ability to directionally sell more effectively.

However, as the number of retailers under its control increases so its ability to manage what these individual shops are doing diminishes.

Thomson, especially, is now in the position of owning a hotch-potch of everything and one wonders how effective it all is.

I know about the overheads of running a business and I can tell you that, sooner or later, Thomson and others will be forced to rationalise and consolidate because this is the only way to contain overheads.

The process will probably be accelerated by the fact that the government is saying that it wants any company controlling over a certain percentage of the market to come clean on what brands it owns.

So, how effective will 'Thomson's Magic of Italy' be as opposed to just 'Magic of Italy'? I am assuming, of course, that the whole point about the drive for 'transparency' will mean the big boys will have to stick their names on the front cover and not somewhere in the small print at the back.

Well, it would have an effect. The whole strategy which Thomson, Airtours, Thomas Cook and First Choice have been pursuing, is to hide their own name and encourage the public to believe that in booking with a brand they are still buying the 'real thing.'

All of them have spent (dare I say overspent) on buying names. I am assuming they will want to protect the snob value attached to many of the names and they will, therefore, not be very keen to see their own mass-market names on the front cover - apart from the design complications.

Let's take it one step further. If the Government is serious about transparency will it mean that all newspapers, when writing about a holiday provided by a tour operator, have to say that that tour operator is owned by Thomson, Airtours, Thomas Cook or First Choice?

Will it be the duty of the press to come clean to the public? Where does the press stand morally on the whole issue? Is there still the same magic to the Rolls Royce name now that it is owned by VW - or is it BMW or Mercedes? It's all getting very interesting.


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