Sunderland based Hays Travel, the UK’s largest independent travel agent, has completed the acquisition of the largest independent travel agent in the South.
The company, which already has an annual turnover of more than £500m and employs over 800 people, has taken over the Bournemouth-based Bath Travel
Founded in 1924, Bath Travel has 60 branches and employs 360 people. Its annual sales are in excess of £100m.
“This represents a big expansion of our retail offer,” said Hays Travel managing director John Hays.
“We have 43 retail shops at the moment, and this will see us going up to over 100.
“Bath Travel is a respected brand and we will be retaining it. The retail staff and head office staff will also be retained.”
Established in 1980, Hays Travel grew from humble beginnings, with Hays founding it in the back of his mother’s childrenswear shop in Seaham, County Durham.
Most of its retail presence remains within the North East, but the company also has several shops in the North West and some as far south as Sheffield. Although in early days it acquired a few small travel businesses, most of its growth had been organic until the recent acquisition.
Regarding the future, Hays said: “I think if the right opportunities presented themselves in the right sectors, more acquisitions are a possibility. This acquisition gives us more buyer power and puts us in a good position for the future.”
Bath Travel managing director, Stephen Bath, said: “We are very pleased because family businesses like us are best to be taken over by similar businesses which respect family values.
“Bath Travel will continue to operate in its name and locations with hardly any changes.”
Associate solicitor at legal advisers Muckle LLP, Philip Clare, said: “It was great for the team at Muckle LLP to work with John and his team at Hays Travel on this acquisition.
“It really is good to see a local business make such an exciting acquisition and we are looking forward to seeing the development of the Hays Travel group going forward.”