Sutton Travel will open in Sutton Coldfield, near Birmingham, next month as a Freedom Travel Group member.
Tomlinson, who was made redundant in December 2008 after four years at HWT, and previously worked for First Choice and Holiday Hypermarkets, said: “I’m using my own savings to do this. I’ve been approached by people keen to invest in the business, but I want to keep it my own. Depending on how it goes, the plan is to expand.
“My aim is to have three shops within five years in different parts of the West Midlands.”
Tomlinson, who will also be on the front desk selling holidays, said he would draw on his experience; he helped set up independent agency Travel Factory with former HWT managing director John Donnelly. The shop became the first HWT store in the UK.
He said: “It’s going to be a case of rolling up my sleeves to start off with. For me, it’s going back to my roots. I have escalated my career over the last 20 years, and I’m going back to what I was doing 10 years ago, only it’s my own business, and it’s with the knowledge of how to run and market the business.”
The shop is minutes from where Tomlinson grew up and is near his home. “I know a lot of people in the area and they tell me this is the right thing to do, and the right place to do it,” he added.
“It’s always going to be a concern setting up in this environment, but the key thing is keeping the cost base low and not investing silly money. The key thing is turnover and revenue, even if passenger numbers are down,” he said.
As part of The Co-operative Travel Group-owned Freedom consortium, the agency will have access to the group’s commercial deals and trade under its ABTA and ATOL licences.
The agency will have three staff and be located on an out-of-town complex, aimed at an upmarket clientele. It will focus on luxury tailor-made holidays, cruises, escorted tours and sports events. “Parts of the market are less affected by the recession, and we will focus on quality service,” said Tomlinson.
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