APCO Europe wins pitch to team up with Airtours

Package holiday company Airtours has completed its hunt for a

public affairs consultancy by hiring the London and Brussels arms of

APCO Europe.



The public affairs and corporate positioning brief was awarded after a

three-way pitch and although unconfirmed, fees are thought to be in the

six-figure region.



The account was confirmed last week and comes on the back of a brief

spell last year when APCO's European headquarters in Brussels helped the

travel firm navigate competition matters arising from its attempt to buy

FirstChoice holidays.



The APCO work will be headed by London managing director Nick de Luca

and European chairman Brad Staples. The pair will report to Airtours

group communications director Anita McErlean and the company's

international relations director, Martin Brackenbury.



Airtours, the UK's largest package holiday seller, is one of twelve

members of the Federation of Tour Operators, whose chairman is

Brackenbury and which continues to use AS Biss for its lobbying

work.



While Airtours has not retained a single public affairs agency in the

past, it has been promiscuous in its use of ad hoc lobbying support.



The company has used the public affairs arm of its retained corporate

and financial PR agency, Brunswick, to lobby on its behalf through-out

recent acquisition processes.



Airtours has also used AS Biss itself on a project basis and the

Brussels office of APCO in the later stages of its attempt to buy First

Choice. This was passsed without a referral to the Competition

Commission in the UK but was rejected by the authorities in Brussels

despite the work of APCO.



'Public affairs has moved up our list of priorities,' said McErlean.



'We now feel we need regular government relations support in a way we

have not had in the past'.



Foremost among the issues confronting Airtours is boosting its low

political profile.



A source at APCO said: 'There is a recognition in the company that

political issues impact on their business and that they must start

engaging with the Government's agenda.'



The Government's White Paper on Aviation is expected within the next few

months.



APCO's brief is expected to include assistance with the company's

contribution to that document.



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