Barrhead Travel parent Travel Leaders’ chief says the group’s “door is open” to Hays Travel, after it announced its own plans for 100 new shops – taking on former Cook senior management to help execute the roll-out.
The US-headquartered company announced the appointment of Cook executives Chris Mottershead, Kathryn Darbandi and Nicki Tempest-Mitchell (above) earlier this week, tasked with leading the Scottish agency’s growth efforts.
Travel Leaders chairman Mike Batt told TTG it was “a natural thought” to secure the services of the trio, considering Cook’s retail network to have always proved a successful arm of its business. No timeframe was given for completing the 100-store expansion, with Batt clarifying the new hires had been brought on full-time with “no finishing point” set.
“If it proves very successful then who knows how many stores we could have,” he added. “I wouldn’t want to speculate at the moment, but as many [agencies] as possible in the right locations is what we are after.”
Asked if Barrhead would look to acquire ex-Cook stores currently held by Hays Travel – which purchased all 555 earlier this month – Batt said “we would love to talk to them about it”.
“If there was a situation which worked for Hays, us, the landlords and the staff then that would be ideal – we want to do right by the Cook staff.
“At the moment Hays has exclusive rights so it is up to them, but our door is absolutely open – it’s Hays’s call.”
Batt said he believed there was “plenty of opportunity” elsewhere, however.
He praised John and Irene Hays’ move to take on Cook’s whole retail estate as “a brave and substantial undertaking”.
He said: “As far as we’re concerned, we want to see more travel agents – that’s the best thing for business. As an industry, let’s not just have those 500-odd Cook shops, but 700, 800 – that would be a real victory for our sector.”