The Harvey World Travel brand will disappear from the UK by the end of this year, new boss Stuart Arnott has revealed.
Staff will be consulted on potential brand names for the shops, which could mean previous trading names of some of the agencies – including Lets Go and Galaxy Travel – being revived in future. The Harvey World Travel brand has been used in the UK since 2004.
Arnott, owner of four-strong agency chain Vacation Travel, has bought 58 trading Harvey World Travel shops and the leases on 34 former stores from Stella Travel Services UK for an undisclosed sum after four months’ negotiations.
Under the terms of the deal, the licence to use the Harvey World Travel brand runs until the end of this year.
Arnott, who has already reassured all 245 staff their jobs are safe and plans to visit each shop personally, said: “It could be we have some Vacation Travel, some Lets Go and some Galaxy Travel shops.
“We have the rights to use these names and we are going to decide by consulting all the staff as I don’t know how strong some of the previous brands were.”
The loss-making Harvey World Travel chain suffered in part as a result of operating under an unknown brand name in the UK, despite its success in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, he said.
“I don’t think customers knew what it stood for. It’s crucial to get the right name. It was loss-making but that’s changing as of today,” he said.
Already one shop consultant who recently resigned has asked to come back to work for the chain, he added.
The shops will continue to have commercial relationships with tour operators such asVirgin Holidays and Thomson Holidays but are likely to work with a wider mix of operators to expand the product range they sell, he said. Vacation Travel’s four branches in Blackpool, Cleveleys, Halifax and Crook sell a broad range of holidays, as well as selling flights to timeshare holidaymakers.
Arnott also plans to set up foreign exchange bureaux in the Harvey World Travel shops where possible and will evaluate the locations of the 34 closed shops to see if there are any possibilities of re-opening any of these agencies. “I want to have a look at these and see if there any possibilities of re-opening any of them,” he said.
Vacation Travel, which has been trading for 14 years on the high street, withdrew its ABTA membership 14 months ago because of bonding costs. However, Arnott says the Harvey World Travel shops will continue to be ABTA members.
“It was purely that the bond for four shops was in excess of £1 million; we have bonded the 58 Harvey World Travel shops for just over £2 million,” he said.
Vacation Travel had a turnover of £27.2 million last year and has made a profit since it started. In its first year of trading it made a profit of £17,000. Arnott said most Vacation Travel staff have been with the group for more than ten years. The group also has three homeworkers in Tenerife and one in Malta.
Arnott added he would be looking at recruiting more staff to oversee IT, accounts and other central functions. “Harvey World Travel was a bit of mismatch with staff all over the place,” he added.