MYTRAVEL hopes to stem the loss of call centre staff by creating new homeworkers as fears of redundancies and brand rationalisation loom.

More than 400 employees of Panorama and Manos Holidays, based in leased premises in Portslade, Brighton, and Glasgow-based Direct Holidays started a 90-day consultation this week.

MyTravel plans to move the operators to Airtours Holidays’ Rochdale premises, relocating product, marketing and commercial teams to create a single management organisation.

The brands will continue to run separately under tour operations managing director Phil Aird-Mash.

The company, which aims to cut costs of between £30 million and £40 million this financial year, conceded there were “potential” redundancies but said it was “bending over backwards” to retain staff.

MyTravel has yet to confirm if the Panorama office will be kept on, but Direct Holidays’ Glasgow call centre is expected to be expanded.

A MyTravel spokesman said: “There is a genuine desire to retain staff and experience, and this is very much based on developing the homeworking area of the business.”

Call centre staff will be able to relocate to the Helmshore customer service centre, near Rochdale, or work from home for a virtual call centre.

Already the Bridge Travel, Cresta Holidays and Travel Service brands, and Cruise Store business operate virtual call centres.

MyTravel currently has less than 100 homeworkers. There are also plans to trial homeworking with Airtours Holidays sales staff.

“We’ll encourage Panorama sales staff to sign up. Homeworking is attractive to both the company and staff,” added the spokesman.

But Travel Counsellors founder David Speakman warned companies moving into homeworking had to work harder to retain a staff culture.

“You have to understand the emotional side of the business as people get isolated working from home,” he added.

MyTravel’s plans follow speculation Airtours’ sister brands were up for sale. One source said: “If the brands move to Rochdale it is not looking to sell them – but it was an option.”

But On Holiday Group founder Steve Endacott, a former MyTravel boss, predicted: “This sounds the death knell of the brands.”