Talks between Hays Travel and Thomas Cook about taking on some of the stores earmarked for closure are ongoing while the group could save some through its Independence Group.
Speaking to Travel Weekly last week at a filming day ahead of the annual Barclays Corporate Travel Forum, the firm's founder and managing director John Hays said Cook’s retraction on the high street was offering opportunities.
He said after seeing double digit growth last year to sales of over £500 million, Hays stores on the high street have enjoyed ten consecutive months of year-on-year profit growth.
Hays, who predicted a bathtub-shaped recession in 2008 when it started, said he was now seeing the "green shoots of recovery" for his company and was increasingly optimistic.
“We are still in an exercise with regards to Thomas Cook shops and I do not know what we will do but we are still looking at a reasonable number.
“I really am an optimist with regards to the high street. There are real opportunities. We are getting a good pipeline of Thomas Cook people and others wanting to be homeworkers.
“And we have a really healthy number of Thomas Cook managers who have applied to join the Independence Group who feel they want to take on existing shops or move to one nearby.”
Hays said the main barriers to growth remain the general economy but that innovative start-ups were succeeding all the time within the Independence Group.
“It’s about having a clear business plan, identifying the market, and going for it really clearly, really hard and really effectively,” he said. “There’s lots of success stories out there. It is possible to grow in this environment and there are lots of exciting businesses in this sector.
“Hays Travel is trading really well. We have had growth on the high street for ten consecutive months now. I’m optimistic, but it’s an integrated approach. A lot of clients who book face to face have checked on the web and done their research on our's or other people’s websites before they come into the shop.”
Asked about further consolidation in the industry, Hays said he was aware of several venture capital backers with interests in travel looking to exit over the next couple of years.
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