Former Wallace Arnold staff have opened a new travel agency in place of one of their ex-firm’s old branches.

White Rose Travel, in Castleford, West Yorkshire, has been set up by former head of retail Natalie Collins and Michelle Metcalfe, who was regional manager for Yorkshire and the Midlands.

They are co-directors of the new business, which soft launched on Saturday, and have employed the agency’s former branch manager Carol Sims on a part-time basis as well as the York branch’s former manager Mark Addinall, who will work as a homeworker.

White Rose - Staff 2

Collins recalled the “shock” of the closure of 19-branch Wallace Arnold as part of the collapse of parent company Specialist Leisure Group (SLG) in May and explained how her and Metcalfe were “heavily involved” in its expansion plans.

On opening the new venture, she said: “Castleford was always the top-performing branch [for Wallace Arnold], so where better to start? We’ve both worked with Carol before and we had lots of contact from former customers so we have a base. We felt we had to take the opportunity while it’s there.”

The agency had a soft launch on Saturday and officially opened its doors today (Monday, September 28). Collins added: “We thought it’d be a soft launch, but we had people knocking on the door before we opened, and we’ve done a few bookings already so we’re really happy with the start we’ve made.”

Collins said numerous former SLG colleagues have gone on to work for revived brands National Holidays and Caledonian Travel, as well as fellow coach operator Alfa Travel, and that other tour operators such as Jet2holidays had been supportive of their launch.

She added: “We were a coach specialist before and a lot of our customers will want those same sort of holidays but being an independent we can work with lots of other tour operators as well. It’s been really important for us to find the right product for our customers.”

Collins said the company would “start small” given the current climate but added: “We have lots of former Wallace Arnold staff who we would like to take on but we have to be careful in the current climate.”

The company has joined the Advantage Travel Partnership, which Wallace Arnold had been a member of before it ceased trading in May, as a managed service (AMS) member.

The consortium said it had seven new sign-ups to the AMS division, which works on a trust account model, since July 1 – double the amount in the same period last year.

Leisure director Kelly Cookes said: “During these turbulent times, we believe many businesses are assessing what they need to be able to move forwards. We are excited to have businesses like White Rose Travel choose us as a partner and we look forward to progressing other opportunities. We have seen a huge increase in recruitment enquiries, particularly in the last few months, which we hope is reflective of our support to members prior to, and throughout this pandemic.”

Advantage has also seen an increase in recruitment enquiries since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and says it is currently speaking with more than 40 branches, ranging from start-ups to existing businesses.

Metcalfe added: “This year has been extremely challenging for the industry and the Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated that agents should partner with a consortium that can provide the required support and an additional level of assurance for agents in both the good and bad times. We are excited to be opening as White Rose Travel and with the support of Advantage, we look forward to seeing what the future holds.”