Galaxy news lead 220606FAST-GROWING travel agency network Harvey World Travel has unveiled plans to control sales to preferred tour operators to the tune of 80% as it snaps up Galaxy Travel as its latest franchisee.

Galaxy Travel’s 23-branches in East Anglia signed up to become HWT franchisees this week, just days after a similar deal with Lets Go Travel’s 34 West Country shops.

Galaxy’s managing director Geoff Blagg will oversee both miniples as HWT’s head of sales for the south and has resigned as an Advantage board member. Former Tomorrows World Travel founder George Reynolds already heads up the north of England.

Both miniples have left Triton Travel Group – touted as one of the most powerful forces in the independent sector with around 2,000 members – to join HWT. Galaxy was in Advantage’s top 20 in terms of turnover.

HWT UK managing director John Donelly stressed the franchise network would remain a group of independent agents, despite its controlled distribution. “Agents are not handcuffed into sellling operators. It would be stupid for us to cut off any local distribution agents have.

“We are definitely not a multiple in the way we run our operation, although size-wise we might be.”

The sales policy copies its Australian model, which already channels 92% of its sales through 70 preferred operators.

HWT International executive director Tim Dodds, overseeing the UK strategy, said there would be a similar list of 70 operators for the UK, with non-preferred operators deracked. “We want to achieve 80% fairly quickly with preferred operators.”

Galaxy Travel already only racks 45 operators. Blagg said: “Our racking policy is restricted and we’ve directed our sales policies for 18 months – unless you do it you can’t ask for respect from operators.”

He claimed Galaxy had suffered when Advantage joined Triton, taking the consortium’s 130 preferred operators up to nearer 200. He added: “My concerns with Triton were many-fold, not least Triton increasing its portfolio from 130 to 200 operators.

“Advantage and Worldchoice would have more credence in their discussions with operators than they have at the moment, rather than being pick-and-mix shops.”

But Triton director and Advantage managing director John McEwan said: “If you take the big four, we only work with two of them.”

He said Galaxy’s and Lets Go’s departure from Triton did not affect the group’s overall negotiating power. “They were part of our top 20 in terms of number of outlets but an incredibly small percentage of our total turnover.”

HWT is on track to reach 94 agencies by August. It now has 85 branches plus three call centres. A further nine shops are due to come on board, including former Going Places shops, new greenfield sites and concessions in Morrisons’ supermarkets.