The man whose family name was synonymous with high street travel retailing in the south of England for 90 years has expressed his “sadness” at plans to drop the Bath Travel brand.
Speaking about the decision of new owner Hays Travel to rebrand the 60 stores by Christmas, ex-Abta president Stephen Bath said he was confident the agency would thrive.
He started with the business in 1977 and, as joint managing director, sold it two years ago.
“We knew it would happen, but it’s earlier than expected,” he said. “I thought the name would stay for three or four more years, but John Hays took the company over and can do what he wants. Hays is trying to become more of a national operator.”
Bath maintained branding was important for an independent agency, but added: “Hays is still an independent agency. The Hays name has cropped up and been in branches now for two years.”
He said he was confident the rebrand would not have a negative effect on business, which he believed was benefiting from Hays Travel’s technology, while remaining family-run.
“Hays wants Bath Travel to prosper and staff to do well, and people will still go into the shops where they recognise staff,” Bath added.
“I hope there are benefits to customers: Bath Travel has the best foreign exchange rates. John Hays knows the business, talks to staff and is a successful entrepreneur.”
Bath credited Hays’ decision to expand into foreign exchange, homeworking and franchising for its impressive turnover growth.
“He has been in business 35 years and grown the business to be twice the size of Bath Travel in turnover terms because he made innovations we didn’t,” he said.
Bath will continue to recount the history of the business as a speaker at corporate events.
The rebranding coincides with the retirement of sales and marketing director Roger Barker – the only remaining director from before the Hays buyout – after more than 40 years with Bath.
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