Hays Travel says it is on course to achieve a significant landmark in 2018 by booking more than £1 billion worth of holidays in a financial year.
The UK’s largest independent travel agent confidently forecast it will surpass the figure as it prepares to report a total transaction value (TTV) of more than £900 million for the 12 months to October 31, 2017.
Managing director John Hays said he “expects to top” the £1 billion mark next year, 16 years after Hays reached £100 million – a landmark that had taken 20 years to achieve.
Hays said that while the billion-pound figure was “just a number”, it would be a notable achievement and testament to the resilience of travel retail on the high street.
“We will definitely have a celebration,” he said. “We’ve had a great year this year. The [audited] numbers won’t be out until February, but they will be good.”
Last year, for the 12 months to October 31, 2016, Hays recorded a TTV of £835 million, turnover of £332 million and profit after tax of just under £6 million.
Hays’ upbeat assessment of travel’s prospects on the high street came as the British Retail Consortium and Confederation of British Industry presented a much gloomier outlook for retail.
The BRC reported a slump in the number of full-time workers on the high street and a record quarterly fall in the number of hours worked, although it said shop numbers were up.
The CBI reported declining sales in October worse than in the depths of the last recession in March 2009. Both groups do not include travel agents in their figures.
However, Hays said travel was bucking the trend and he was continuing to seek opportunities to grow. He said availability of quality staff was the key challenge.
Hays now employs more than 1,000 retail staff, having added more than 100 this year.
Hays Travel is expanding south from its northeast heartland into Yorkshire, across the south coast – where it took over 60-shop Bath Travel in 2013 – and into regions such as Norfolk, where it has two stores and has just signed a lease for a shop in Cromer.
Northwest partner Just Go is due to add four stores by December 31, taking the joint venture’s total to 27, up from 12 three years ago.
Speaking at the Hays Travel Independence Group Conference this week, Hays said providing personal service and independent advice and having strong supplier relationships were vital.
“We work closely with all our suppliers and they reward us for the sales we deliver,” he said.
“I like to think we are trusted that if we say we are going to do something we will do whatever we can to achieve that. If you do you get rewarded in the long term.”
IG agent Admiral Travel’s Workington and Altrincham stores have “smashed their best-ever years by a country mile” and the agency is looking to expand further after opening a third shop in Cockermouth in May.
Owner Andy Nelson said its success was down to three things: price parity with online from most suppliers, failures like Monarch and lowcost Holidays driving customers back to agents, and having great staff.
“Customers want someone to find the right holiday for them, whether it be an in-house brand or alternative supplier, and they want it competitively priced,” he said.
Nelson added improved technology was also helping agents to not only compete with the web on price but also operate more effectively and efficiently.
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