Former Freedom Travel Group chief Matt Harding has joined Travel Counsellors to head up its travel agency owners strategy.
Harding will be tasked with courting independent agency bosses to tout the benefits of Travel Counsellors’ business model.
Travel Counsellors said Harding’s appointment would help it “build on its success” attracting agency owners and helping other existing travel professionals migrate their businesses.
“Over the years, we have attracted a number of previous agency owners to the company,” said Travel Counsellors managing director Kirsten Hughes.
“With a 25-year tenure in the travel industry, Matt is well placed to continue our focus on supporting them to take advantage of the tools and technology platform we offer, ensuring the dedicated support we provide is attuned to agency owners’ requirements.”
Of Harding personally, Hughes added: “Matt brings with him a wealth of knowledge and experience to further support this growing area of the business, which enables experienced travel professionals to enjoy a seamless transition to become corporate and leisure Travel Counsellors, taking advantage of the opportunity to employ assistance in line with the needs of their customers too.”
Harding’s joins Travel Counsellors following the collapse of Thomas Cook-owned Freedom. To date, nearly 50 ex-Cook staff have now launched new travel businesses with Travel Counsellors.
He joins former Cook regional manager Darren Bien and Jayne Marlor at Travel Counsellors, the pair having joined the business last month.
“I was devastated by the collapse of Thomas Cook and, with it, The Freedom Travel Group," said Harding. “We fostered a real family feel at Freedom, and I’m pleased to see many members and homeworkers have been able to continue to run their businesses.
“As soon as the news broke, I was engaged by Thomas Cook Group’s liquidators to support them in their obligations with the regulators to try and minimise any further disruption to the members and homeworkers businesses. Not having control of the business felt really alien to me, and not being able to support the Freedom members and homeworkers directly was really tough.
“Following later conversations with Travel Counsellors senior management team, it became clear there was a real opportunity to support independent travel agency owners, many of whom I am still in touch with, in ensuring the continued success of their businesses for years to come, backed by the support of complete financial protection.
“I’m truly pleased and humbled to be able to support Travel Counsellors in developing a strategy for independent agency owners and homeworking travel professionals to continue to run their businesses and enjoy fulfilling careers within an industry they love.”
Hughes added: “With 20% of Travel Counsellor business owners already hailing from the Thomas Cook community in the last five years, we’re keen to ensure new joiners feel at home. The appointment of Darren and Jayne, now followed by Matt, is supporting us to do just that.”