Agents should buy customer databases belonging to failed agencies to help build their business, according to Hays Travel managing director John Hays.

Speaking at the Hays Independence Group conference in Egypt, he said: “If you get the opportunity, then buy the databases. If one of your competitors fails, it’s worth a phone call or a knock on the door and to ask if they will sell you their customer list.”

However, any offers and marketing must be correctly targeted to the client. He added: “You have got to make sure what you send out is clean and relevant. You are building the relationship with the client. Sending the wrong type of email out will have a negative impact on your brand.”

He warned members not to let their brand by damaged by association with a failed agency. Referring to Hays’ purchase of the failed Freedom Direct Holidays in April this year, he said: “You have to ask yourself, does your brand get contiminated? That certainly happened to us with Freedom Direct.”

Later, Hays reiterated his confidence in the high-street travel agent model. He told delegates: “I am a passionate advocate of the high street. I see a future for face-to-face, high-street retailing.”

Insisting that there is no evidence that the internet will take over 100% distribution, he said agents can add value through personal service that differentiates them from the “faceless internet”. He said agents on the high street need to be price competitive, and offer alternative products to the main package holiday operators in order to compete.