The Affordable Travel Group has unveiled plans for an online travel agency after appointing Neil Herbert as a director.

Herbert joins from Mobiletrails, the company behind mobile phone information service Travel Buddy, where he worked as sales, marketing and distribution director for almost 18 months. He takes up a new post from next week and will take on some of the responsibility held by former director Michael Stevens, who died on August 8, and that of Affordable Car Hire sales and marketing director Nick Hughes, who has left for Attraction World.

The agency, which has an ABTA licence, will specialise in villa accommodation and has contracted just shy of 1,000 private villas. It will also sell car hire from its existing Affordable Car Hire brand, hotels, cruises, transfers and flights as packages and components.

Initially it is likely to operate as a wholesaler, predominantly for independent travel agents, who will be able to white-label the website to sell its products to customers. It will sell to consumers direct from the start of next year and operate on a global basis.

“A lot of agents white-label our car-hire site already and with this we can extend it further,” said Herbert. “Because Affordable Car Hire has got distribution across the UK we have lots of people selling our car product and they have expressed an interest in selling this product as well.”

The new agency will be soft-launched at World Travel Market (WTM) next month, where talks will be held with interested agents and suppliers, and officially launched at the end of November. It currently has an online holding page.

Meanwhile, the group also plans to launch a niche tour operation in the near future.

Herbert, who has previously worked for Comtec, Holiday Taxis and Holiday Extras, said: “It’s an opportunity for me to run an online travel agency and launch a niche tour operator, and get back into [mainstream] travel. I am very excited.”

* A memorial evening is being held to commemorate the life of former Affordable Travel Group director Michael Stevens, who lost his battle against pneumonia in August this year. The memorial will be on Friday, October 30, from 6.30pm at Vivat Bacchus London Bridge, 4 Hays Lane, London, SE1 2HB. The invite is open to anyone who knew Michael. Please contact Angela Day if you wish to attend on Michael’s partner Scott is compiling a photo album to celebrate Michael’s life and would welcome any pictures with travel industry colleagues.