The 25 former Harvey World Travel stores now owned by Vacation World could be trading as part of Hays Travel’s Independence Group as soon as the end of this week.

Hays Travel managing director John Hays said the group had been in discussions with Harvey World Travel since it lost its ABTA membership last month. All staff at the branches have been told their jobs are safe.

The 25 stores will be branded Vacation World, but will be run separately to Vacation Travel, whose owner Stuart Arnott bought HWT from Stella Travel Services UK in April. Vacation Travel is not an ABTA member.

Vacation World will join the Independence Group’s existing 150 members and will be able to use the group’s ABTA and ATOL licences, benefit from its commercial deals, credit card rates, and technology. The Independence Group handles all its members’ back-office work, and pays all suppliers on behalf of its agent members.

Hays said: “For us, this is good news, because it’s more members and hopefully more quality members. Obviously, there were issues with Harvey World Travel, but these are the best-performing branches, and they have gone through our vetting process. We have never just chased volume for volume’s sake.”

Once the paperwork is complete, Hays Travel’s Independence Group will be legally and financially responsible for Vacation World.

Meanwhile, Hays said he anticipated the Independence Group expanding further as a result of membership enquiries from agents having problems with credit card companies no longer prepared to work with them. Hays Travel guarantees credit card payments.

He added: “Harvey World Travel is one example of people looking for an alternative way to organise their business and we are expecting more. Clearly, there are a few people beating a path to our door and we see this is an opportunity.

“We are getting more enquiries at the moment and we are interested in taking on more people who we regard as having good, viable businesses. Clearly we want to maintain the quality of the group.”