Fred Olsen Travel is to open its seventeenth branch this month, marking its first foray into East Sussex.
The new store is in Heathfield, near Eastbourne, and will be managed by Trevor Ridler, former manager of Baldwins Travel in Tonbridge, Kent.
Fred Olsen Travel already operates in East Anglia, Hampshire and Dorset, and head of commercial Paul Harwick said East Sussex had a similar profile of affluent customers.
The branch, which Hardwick and Ridler have repainted and kitted-out themselves, will open with a soft launch on January 24, ahead of a grand opening on February 21.
There are no other agencies in the town and the agency has started advertising the opening in the local press.
Hardwick plans to trial an affiliate agent scheme from the shop, where experienced agents are encouraged to set up pop-up shops elsewhere in the county.
He explained: “We want to see if there are any newbies or experienced agents looking to find a way back into the industry, who want to see if they can create a successful pop-up business outside the shop in the surrounding area.”
He suggested pop-ups could be in garden centres, sports clubs or “anywhere people are going”, adding: “We see this as a temporary thing for people not wanting to work full hours, or wanting to work more flexibly, but it’s a toe in the water for them, and for us, without adding lots of cost.”
Hardwick stressed Fred Olsen Travel was not looking to “tread on any toes”, but was “looking for good opportunities”.
He explained the business had “partnered” with an agency near Bournemouth, meaning it remains independent but becomes a licensee of Fred Olsen Travel and benefitting from its commercial terms, financial protection and marketing resources. It operates a similar model with Ponders Travel, in Cambridge, and with Cruise and Travel Select, in Bedford, and Hardwick is open to more such arrangements.
“We can help businesses move forward,” he said. “And surely it’s better for us to work with our competitors.”
Fred Olsen Travel’s customer events will return for the first time since Covid this Saturday (January 22).
More than 120 people are registered to join agents and suppliers at Norwich Airport. A second event is planned at Bournemouth airport on February 2.