Operator apologises for ‘insulting’ advert after agents threaten to blacklist business

By Linsey McNeill
Home » Operator apologises for ‘insulting’ advert after agents threaten to blacklist business

A tour operator has promised to remove an advert for holidays to Mauritius that agents claim was ‘insulting’ and ‘offensive’.

Several took to social media to complain that the Facebook advert questioned their expertise.

A handful said they had decided to blacklist the long-haul operator as a result.

Mercury Holidays CEO Tom Bugeja apologised to agents but insisted that the advert wasn’t aimed at travel agents.

He said it was aimed at Mercury Holidays’ competitors, especially direct-sell, online tour operators.

The advert, which has been running on Facebook for at least three weeks, said: “You don’t need an ‘expert’ to Google hotels for you”.

Agents believed Mercury was having a dig at agents’ knowledge and trying to persuade clients to book direct instead.

One agent said the advert wasn’t ‘at all supportive towards the trade’, while another wrote: “Not a company I want to support any longer with slogans like that.”

One said “Bit naughty. They obviously don’t appreciate us,” while some said they had stopped selling Mercury Holidays as a result.

Mercury Holidays is an ABTA member and has a dedicated section for agents on its website.

After Travel Gossip News approached Mercury Holidays for an explanation, its CEO posted a message on the Travel Gossip Facebook group to say there had been ‘some misunderstanding’.

Tom Bugeja added: “This is certainly not aimed at travel agents, but other tour operators who overcharge customers for the same holidays. We very much value our patnerships with the trade and see these partnerships as a vital part of our business. If there are any particular concerns or issues with what we’re doing as a business, please feel free to email me.”


Speaking later to Travel Gossip, Tom said he would remove the advert. He added: “I can say definitely, 100%, this wasn’t aimed at travel agents, the last thing I would want to do is insult them, that would be self-sabotage.”

Tom said 25% to 30% of Mercury Holidays’ business comes through travel agents, and sales through the trade for Mauritius are up 140% on the same period of 2019.

“We really value travel agents and our business through agents is going really well, I don’t want to offend them, this advert was aimed at our competitors who advertise cheap prices online but make clients call them to book, then they claim to give ‘expert’ advice over the phone and charge more.

“I apologise if the advert offended agents, I’m happy to remove it straightaway.”

Tom accepted other claims by agents that Mercury offers lower prices to clients who book direct, but he said that if it didn’t it would make a loss on some packages.

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