Business is booming at a Kirkby town centre travel agent saved from closure along with the jobs of its six staff in the wake of the collapse of the Thomas Cook holiday empire.
Hays Travel North West rode to the rescue and now occupy the shop in St Chad’s Parade where they have kept on the staff and given the premises a sparkling £60,000 makeover in time for the peak booking season.
It’s been the ideal Christmas present for manager Natalie Mackay and her colleagues who had been facing a bleak future after the demise of Thomas Cook.
She said: “I’ve been here for eight years and it’s a massive relief that we have been able to re-open and keep our jobs.
“We’re all local girls who have grown up here and have a great relationship with our customers so it was really devastating when we closed so having the opportunity to come back here has been brilliant.
“It’s been great since Hays Travel took over and now it’s been refurbished it’s all modern and fresh and the customers really appreciate it as well – it gives them the confidence that we are here to stay.”
Cllr Tony Brennan, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Economic Development, said: “I’m delighted to visit the newly refurbished Hays Travel in Kirkby Town Centre and delighted to meet the staff whose jobs have been safeguarded.
“Kirkby is currently benefitting from major investment, including that at Hays Travel. I wish Hays Travel every success as they welcome customers into their newly refurbished premises.”
Natalie added: “We have a great relationship here with the Town Centre Management Team and Knowsley Council who have really followed our journey and been very supportive.
“They have been great and as a shop we like to get involved with any events running in the town centre.
“The Council have really been fantastic and there’s a massive regeneration going on here with lots of new businesses coming in.”
Hays Travel Managing Director Don Bircham, whose Wrexham-based business has 44 stores across the North West and North Wales, said: “Kirkby is a great town for us and this is a great opportunity and that’s why I wanted to spend money on it.
“There is a more optimistic mood now. People were scared of travelling abroad and having to take multiple tests with the fear of a failed test meaning a stay in quarantine with all the extra expense that entails.
“But now the easing of restrictions by the Government means that we are seeing a massive surge in bookings as the fact that you only need a lateral flow test on return rather than a pre-departure test and a PCR on return has given customers the confidence to fly again.
“They haven’t really had a holiday for two years and another key thing is that because of all the additional requirements they are coming back to their high street travel agent.
“The price is much the same as organising your holiday yourself and you get all the extra help, advice and support that we can provide and the specialist knowledge of the travel rules in each country.
“Travellers can book with a low deposit and take advantage of our easy payment plan to spread the cost of their holiday
“We have all sorts of initiatives in place, including a Piece of Mind Guarantee which means you can amend and alter your holiday free of charge.
“Selected tour operators are also doing that and, if you combine that with taking out insurance, it takes out the risk factor.
“We’re confident now we’re getting back to something like normality and, if there is a bump in the road with certain countries, we have some guarantees and some comfort that we can take care of it and offer alternative destinations.
“People for the most part are opting for the traditionally popular summer holiday destinations like Greece, Turkey, Spain, the Balearics and the Canaries while Florida is also coming back strongly.
“There’s also a massive pent-up demand for cruising – that’s proving very popular again because it’s not been really possible for such a long time.
“There are lots of people wanting to tick off things on their bucket list because so many people have re-evaluated their lives as a consequence of the pandemic.
“People have been thinking long and hard about what life is all about and there’s a lot of grandparents who’ve got a few quid in the bank who want to take the kids and the grandkids away on an expensive, dream family holiday.
“The other thing is that people are more and more drawn to the high street travel agent at the moment for all the security, expert advice and help we can provide.
“A lot of people have had their fingers burnt in the past come of years but they know they are in safe hands with a proper travel agency, so if they are booking an expensive holiday they can have real peace of mind.”