Lidl, Leclerc, Carrefour, Auchan: what are retail travel agencies worth?

A week in Dominican Republic for a 5-star stay for 781 euros at Lidl, four days and three nights in Tenerife in the Canaries in a 3-star residence for 190 euros at Leclerc, or even 219 euros for accommodation in Méribel at the beginning of December at Carrefour. In these times complicated by the Covid-19 pandemic, mass distribution players offering travel are competing for good deals and promotional offers. Currently, there are four of them offering packages for traveling in France or abroad: Auchan, Carrefour, Lidl and Leclerc.

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The E. Leclerc group was a pioneer in the 90s by launching its Leclerc Voyages boutiques. Auchan and Carrefour followed. The discount distributor Lidl only arrived on the market in 2017, and only with offers on the internet, without physical travel agencies, unlike its competitors in mass distribution. And that should not change: “The opening of physical agencies is not planned”, confirms Mélanie Lemarchand, head of Lidl Voyages, to Business Insider France.

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The large distribution players have gradually made their hole in the French tourism market. “Today, distributors represent around 20% of sales in the sector for package travel, that is to say, offering transport and accommodation”, explains Jean-Pierre Mas, president of the Professional Union of Enterprises. travel. A stable figure for several years.

So what are the tourist stays offered by Auchan, Leclerc, Lidl and Carrefour really worth? Are promotional offers really advantageous? Do you take a risk when you book a trip in the shopping arcade of your supermarket? Or on the internet after consulting a catalog of promotions offering discounts on Twix and tins of peas?

‘You won’t find these offers anywhere else’, assures Lidl Voyages

When you book your stay through Leclerc, Lidl or Carrefour, you can legitimately think that the offer is a good deal, like the discounts they often offer on their supermarket shelves. Distributors have a year-round offer called a “catalog”, which adapts to the season: ski or sun holidays in winter, all-inclusive camping in summer, etc. On these offers, the rates of travel agencies do not necessarily differ from more traditional agencies, whether online or physical.

“Yes, we can say that the offers are interesting at Lidl, Carrefour or Auchan”, explains Jean-Pierre Mas, “but we can say exactly the same thing for Selectour, Prêt à Partir or Havas Voyages”, he adds. . While catalog offers therefore do not seem to really stand out in terms of price, there is nevertheless a major advantage for Leclerc, Carrefour, Auchan and Lidl: the power of their communication tools. And in particular the brochures and paper catalogs distributed in millions of copies in French letterboxes. “Even if they are not exclusively focused on travel, it nevertheless works very well,” confirms the president of Travel Companies. An indisputable asset to get people talking about its offers.

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Especially since one-off promotional offers that are more interesting than catalog offers can also be offered by supermarket chains. This is what Lidl is trying to do, for example. Every Tuesday, Lidl Voyages makes its “exclusive offer” available on its website, a stay that can also be found in its weekly catalog. “This is the cheapest rate on the market for the proposed stay,” says Mélanie Lemarchand.

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“We negotiate these offers with our partners to offer an exclusivity on the stay, its price and its duration. You will not find them anywhere else”, affirms us the person in charge of Lidl Voyages. The same goes for Leclerc, Carrefour and Lidl. “Distributors will make a commitment on 1,000 or 2,000 seats, which will allow them to offer cheaper prices and to be able to differentiate themselves”, explains Jean-Pierre Mas.

“You can be very well in a 3 star hotel”

If you want to benefit from the best prices, whatever the type of travel agency, you must therefore be on the lookout and compare the offers and services offered. Mélanie Marchand half-confirms this: “We are all competitors, we travel agencies, whether online or physical”. However, with one advantage over traditional agencies: “The customer who does his shopping at Lidl has an appetite for the brand, so he will more easily book his stay with Lidl Voyages than with another brand he does not know. “, she explains.

For travelers who trust the brand, this therefore seems obvious. But for those who are not customers of the distributor and who are afraid of booking a stay through the Lidl discounter or the Leclerc supermarket chain, is there really a risk in choosing a trip with a major distribution agency?

For the director of the professional association of Travel Companies, the answer is clear: no risk. “These are the a priori of consumers. Indeed, sometimes to offer very low prices, we do not necessarily look for the most upscale services. But we can be very well in a 3-star hotel,” says Jean-Pierre Mas.

Complaints from dissatisfied customers do not seem to be raining down on the supply side of large-scale distribution. “I deal with tourism mediation,” explains the president of Travel Companies. “What we can say is that the mass distribution travel agencies are at the same level as everyone else in terms of the number of disputes to be settled,” he explains.

Still, the current context is difficult for the tourism sector due to traffic restrictions due to Covid-19. We must therefore try to find sources of growth. Lidl Voyages now offers dry flights on its website. But unlike the stay offers, the prices are the same as on the other flight comparators, without a preferential offer.

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