Hays Travel acquires Wales’s largest independent agency

Hays buys Travel House
By Linsey McNeill
23/11/2023
Home » Hays Travel acquires Wales’s largest independent agency

Hays Travel has bought south Wales-based independent agency Travel House and its 16 shops.

The agency chain, which claims to be the largest in Wales, has been a member of the Hays Travel Independence Group since 2021.

It was founded in by hotelier and entrepreneur Martin Morgan in 1992, and expanded to over 115 branches before it was sold to Thomson (now TUI) in 1999.

A number of branches and the Travel House brand were bought back from TUI in 2004 and prior to the sale to Hays were owned by Martin’s travel, hospitality property and sports investment company Swansea.com. Travel House also ran a small tour operation, but this was closed during the pandemic.

Martin said: “My travel agency dream started 31 years ago, opening a branch in Brynhyfryd situated halfway between the two schools I attended as a child. 

“We worked tirelessly – opening late, and on Sundays – and in 1999 we sold to Thomson Holidays. 

“In 2004, Travel House was repurchased from TUI, continuing the dream. I would like to thank Christine Major, Leanne Williams, and all our staff who have played a pivotal role in Travel House’s success. 

“We joined Hays Travel Independence Group in 2021, after weathering the storm of COVID, that cost our industry millions. 

“We have now reached a place where we have taken Travel House as far as we can, with myself turning 61, moving to Spain, and getting married next year, now is the time for Travel House to expand and thrive even further under the guardianship of Hays and Dame Irene, who I have known for almost 30 years, so can trust implicitly to take Travel House to its limits.”

Martin and Group Managing Director Jacob Hughes shared the news with the Travel House team of 68 today.

Jacob, pictured above, said: “As we explained to our brilliant team this morning, for Swansea.com stepping away from travel has not been an easy decision, but the time is right to focus on the other areas of our business and continue our investment in new projects in the City of Swansea and beyond. 

“Having been a Hays Travel IG member for a couple of years now, we already feel part of the Hays family. 

“There is no other organisation we would trust our team’s future with, we know they are in great hands with [owner and Chair] Dame Irene [Hays], Jonathon [Woodall-Johnston, Chief Operating Office], and the rest of Hays Travel, and I wish them every success, from what will now be the sideline as a customer.” 

Jacob told Travel Gossip all members of staff will transfer to Hays, adding: “We’ve turned the business around from losing millions during the pandemic to having a record-breaking year last year, but we’ve taken it as far as we can and feel Hays is the best business to take it forward.”

Dame Irene added: “Martin is a brilliant entrepreneur who has developed an excellent travel business in south Wales. 

“We were delighted when he joined our Independence Group in 2021 and our in-house team have enjoyed working with him to further develop the business. 

“When Martin explained his plans, we were honoured to step in and have given him and his excellent team our assurances today that their jobs are safe, and they will be welcomed into our Hays Travel family.

“We are very pleased with this latest acquisition, which further supports our strategic priorities. We wish Martin and Jacob every success with their future plans.”

Jonathon assured staff that day-to-day operations will remain the same ‘in the short term’. Rebranding and shop refits will take place in the next financial year, after April 2024.

He said: “We are pleased to welcome the former Travel House team to Hays Travel and have assured them today that the change in ownership will not affect day-to-day operations for them or their customers in the short term as any refits will be added into our 2024 plans. 

“Our teams will work closely with our newest colleagues to offer support and development opportunities.” Hays put the number of Travel House staff transferring at 68.

The purchase of Travel House follows Hays’ recent acquisition of Just Go’s retail chain.

Pictured are Dame Irene with Jacob Hughes

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