Airtours under pressure over website

HOLIDAY giant Airtours will come under mounting pressure on Wednesday to explain an internet strategy that has cost £340m but has yet to show results in the UK.
The company, which announces its half-year results this week, spent £240m last year on US Travel Services International, which included website www.mytravelco.com
, and another £100m rolling out the brand and its technology through the group.
But the launch has been delayed and this weekend it is still not possible to book a holiday on Airtours` website.
`There is a feeling that Airtours has slipped behind rivals like Thomas Cook, which has a bookable site,` said one analyst. `We will look for clear signs that Airtours is on track.`
Airtours chief executive Tim Byrne recently defended his company`s policy when he said: `The technology is complicated and we have to get it right. We will test it and iron out problems before launching later this year.`
Byrne is expected to reaffirm his commitment to selling via the web. The company has already announced plans to shut 120 of its 867 shops.
The six months to March is traditionally a loss-making period for travel companies but analysts expect Airtours` losses to have risen sharply to between £85m and £90m, up from £71m last year.
Airtours will be expected to demonstrate improvements in Germany, where losses led to two profits warnings last year, and to turn round its North American holiday business, which recorded losses of £11.1m in the six months to March 31.
Analysts forecast Airtours` full-year results to September 30 to be in the range of £148m to £160m, compared with last year`s £80m.
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