The deal struck by Hays Travel to buy fellow independent retailer Bath Travel indicates a confidence in the resilience of the high street, according to John Hays.
Speaking exclusively to Travel Weekly about the deal which has brought together two of the UK’s biggest independent travel agencies, the Hays managing director was upbeat about the future.
“Obviously, the internet is always on the rise, but Hays Travel shops continue to be profitable and so I firmly believe there is a genuine future in this retail sector,” he said.
Hays claimed Bath Travel shops were now trading well, despite joint managing director Stephen Bath openly admitting last year that Carnival UK’s commission cuts had pushed it into the red.
Hays said: “We are really pleased with how Bath are trading. It’s partly because Carnival UK has increased their commission but also because they have made some operational efficiencies.
“There has been some good management and we are expecting them to show a substantial turnaround and make a good profit this year.
“Bath has got a fantastic brand and a great history of giving a fantastic service to clients.
“In fact, in the time it’s taken to conclude this deal, Bath Travel branches have been mystery shopped twice and won both times, so we feel a family-run business like this fits in very, very nicely with what we’re doing.”
Hays said he did not expect any redundancies as a result of the buyout and that Bath’s existing management team would continue to run the business.
However, Hays said he would be making regular trips down south, and confirmed that the Hays Travel retail director Jane Schumm would be spending several days a week down in Bournemouth until Christmas “overseeing what changes might occur”.
“We are going to go really slowly. We’re going to take our time, have a good look at what we have got,” Hays said.
“There are clearly some best practices across both Hays and Bath to address. It would seem very silly to have two ways of doing everything and we already see all kinds of synergies and benefits, and opportunities to grow.”
He stressed Hays did not have all the answers. “We will learn from each other. Bath is very strong in cruise for example so we’re very interested in their cruise product. That can be used across the group. It makes absolute sense for Hays to piggy-back on that.”
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