Major Travel expects the headcount at its new Peterborough office to grow five-fold and expects to seek investment in 2020.
TTG exclusively attended the opening of Major’s new tailor-made brand Signature Long Haul’s offices last week, which comprises 21 former Thomas Cook Signature staff.
Adrian Parsley (reservations), Rute Magalhaes (after-sales for both Major and Signature) and Candy Homes (learning and development) have been appointed team leaders.
The team has been undergoing intensive training at both the Lynch Wood offices – a stone’s throw from the former Cook headquarters – and at Major’s main London base, ready for a 2 December launch.
The Mayor of Peterborough cut the ribbon at the office opening, with MP Lisa Forbes, a former Cook employee herself, expressing her delight that a pool of Cook talent has been retained in the city.
The idea for Signature Long Haul, for which a temporary blue and yellow logo harking back to old-style Cook has been created, came about when Major’s managing director Qasim Gulamhusein and sales and marketing director Mohammed Rashid held a recruitment day in Peterborough shortly after Cook collapsed and recognised “an incredible pool of talented and experienced” people.
They have matched the new team members’ Cook salaries and given them “better bonus structures”. Rashid, who also owns a stake in the trade-only consolidator and tour operator, said Hays Travel’s acquisition of Cook’s retail network solidified the idea for Signature, with the further opportunity it opened up with more agents.
Rashid added: “That confirmed we should do it and could grow the business.”
With the opening of Signature, Major now boasts 55 staff – a doubling since Gulamhusein and Miqdaad Versi acquired 85% of the business from Mike Widdowson in 2017, who remains chair.
At that time, they also took the brand trade-only and set up offices in Manila and Cairo for programmers, developers and video-makers. But the call centre staff are all UK-based.
Gulamhusein said of Peterborough: “There’s a big pool of talent here. I can see us expanding again – the office space downstairs is vacant. In the next three or four years, I wouldn’t be surprised if we had more than 100 staff here.”
He added the Signature brand would be distinct to Major, with its own set of hotels to work with, its own product team and its own phone number, branding and website. The pair compared the concept to Travel 2’s Simply Luxury.
Rashid said: “We now have the likes of the US and Caribbean, Asia, Australia and New Zealand specialists.
“We’ve also taken on a well-trained res team member who will take all her leads from social media. It’s about adapting to the needs of the trade.”
Gulamhusein added Major was evolving from a consolidator to an operator.
“We’re the 108th biggest Atol-holder in the UK,” he said. “We want to get in the first 100 and then maybe the first 50, which I think will happen.”
Asked whether Major was seeking further investment, Gulamhusein said: “Travel companies don’t get the best valuations right now [because of Cook’s collapse]. In six to 12 months, I can see us taking on investment to grow the business.”
Rashid added: “Those companies that survive turbulent times are often seen as robust. We’ve not just survived, but grown bigger.
“We’ve expanded to so many product areas now that Major was just not known for. Things have moved so quickly, but we didn’t want to lose such great talent.”