Travel Counsellors says it is “putting its money where its mouth is” by promising to honour outstanding commissions owed to agents who switch from rival firms.


The move is likely to be viewed in the industry as a direct attack on The Co-operative Travel’s Personal Travel Advisors, amid reports that its homeworkers are unsettled by the merger with Thomas Cook.


Travel Counsellors has been critical of the Co-op’s policy of withholding forward commission from homeworkers who leave, saying it is unethical and unfairly ties them in to working for the company.


But Steve Byrne, Travel Counsellors managing director, said: “This is not about us and any other particular organisation. We are a people business so we have to attract the best. Without that we are nothing. We are putting our money where our mouth is and saying we are prepared to recompense you.


“I’ve no idea whether we’ll recruit one or 100; I’m not bothered. We just think this is the right thing to do. We need to get in front of people, so we are saying let us remove that barrier of not being able to afford to leave.”


Byrne added he also hoped the offer might prevent good people from leaving travel during what are challenging economic times.


Sector skills agency People 1st this week said there was a skills gap, reporting a 35% decrease in travel agency managers and 7% fall in agents in the past five years.


“There is concern an increasing number of people are leaving the industry, or being encouraged that the only game in town is to be fed price-based leads. It isn’t,” Byrne said.


He claimed his agents’ earnings were on average 8% up year on year and challenged other agents to talk to any one of his counsellors to find out more.


In its announcement, Travel Counsellors quotes one unnamed agent who it claimed lost £5,000 when switching.


She said: “The decision to fund forward commissions will enable many agents to make an informed decision about their future without any obstacles.”


In June Travel Weekly reported how homeworker Jacqui Ridler was fighting to recoup £6,000 in commission from The Co-operative Travel who had employed her as a Personal Travel Advisor.