NEWS: Airtours holds agency talks in bid to lift sales

Airtours, Britain’s second largest holiday company, is talking to agencies about raising its profile to boost its flagging holiday sales.

Airtours, Britain’s second largest holiday company, is talking to

agencies about raising its profile to boost its flagging holiday sales.



The Lancashire-based operator is in discussions with shops in London

and Manchester after the Miami cruise company, Carnival Cruise Lines,

acquired a 29.5 per cent stake in Airtours in February. Carnival is a

major US advertiser, with a marketing-led approach.



At least two Manchester shops - Stowe Bowden Wilson and BDH - are

understood to be making full creative, strategic and media presentations

for the pounds 6.5 million account next week. It is believed that

Airtours is also holding discussions with London agencies, including

Lowe Howard-Spink.



The main Airtours account is currently with the Manchester-based shop,

Sass Panayi. Media is handled by the Media Centre.



The pitches are being organised by Airtours’ marketing director, Richard

Carrick.



Airtours’ sales are reportedly behind those of its main rivals, First

Choice - which launched a TV campaign through Ogilvy and Mather in

February - and Thomson.



Carrick, who was unavailable for comment, has had an up-and-down

relationship with agencies in the past. A known cost-cutter, Carrick’s

dealings with London agencies have often foundered during price

negotiations. Airtours’ relationship with Bartle Bogle Hegarty in the

early 90s only lasted a few weeks because of disagreements about

payment.



This could be set to change. Under the influence of Carnival, Airtours

is planning to put more resources into the expanding cruise market.

Carnival is famous for having taken cruising - formerly a rich man’s

treat - to the masses. The current discussions may in part be about this

expansion.