HUNDREDS of Bath Travel staff have been assured their jobs are safe despite the company being sold to a bigger firm.

Hays Travel is now in charge of the company after striking a deal for an undisclosed sum of money.

Bath Travel's 360 staff in 60 branches across the south were told the news in a conference call from new boss John Hays on Tuesday morning.

They are now part of the country's biggest independent travel company which boasts more than 1,100 staff and a turnover of more than £600 million.

Until Tuesday Bath Travel was owned by siblings Christine, Stephen, Andrew and Sally, the grandchildren of founder Reginald Bath.

But the brothers and sisters decided to sell up rather than hand it down to their 14 children.

“The fourth generation would have been enormous” said Stephen, who added: “Imagine how complicated it would have been by the fifth generation.”

Bath Travel has been working with Sunderland-based Hays Travel, its provider of foreign exchange, for several years but only recently decided to sell up.

Stephen said the business is now in good shape following four difficult years as it competed with online travel agents.

Hays was founded by current boss John Hays in 1980, at a desk at the back of his mum's clothing shop.

He has personally seen the business grow to become the UK's largest independent but is determined to maintain family values and the personal touch.

He told the Daily Echo: “I don't see things changing a lot at Bath Travel. The name, the branches and the staff will all stay.

“The Bath Travel brand and reputation for service are superb. I am proud and excited that we are now the owners of this great brand.”

Mr Hays and senior staff members plan on spending as much time as possible in Bournemouth in the coming weeks and months to get the know the staff and clientele.

He added: “I'd like to pay tribute to the Bath family. They've been really concerned that their business goes to a good home. I'm really pleased that they feel that Hays Travel is a good home.

“The values of Bath Travel are of independent and knowledgeable, personal service. The Bath Travel brand is synonymous with quality and service and we will retain the brand.”


The company was formed in 1924 in Bournemouth by Reginald Ernest Bath, the grandfather of the most recent owners Christine, Stephen, Andrew and Sally.

Reginald's son, Peter, took control in 1953 and Palmair was formed as a tour operator in 1959.

Peter Bath expanded the network of Bath Travel branches and cruise business took off when the company became a significant agent for P&O and Cunard.

Palmair started its own airline in 1993 and also operated Concorde charters in the 1990s.

Peter Bath was renowned for personally seeing off all flights from Bournemouth for nearly 50 years before his death in 2006.

In 2010 Palmair and its airline closed due to pressure from Ryanair who were operating the same routes at very low prices.

After three years of difficult trading conditions, the company has bounced back and currently has a turnover of more than £100 million and 360 staff.


  • Both are family-owned, independent companies.
  • Personal, face-to-face services offered by staff.
  • Large networks of branches.


  • Bath Travel serves a more affluent area than Sunderland-based Hays.
  • There is more interest in the luxury holiday market in the south of England than in the North East.
  • Bath Travel has huge cruise business with Hays selling more budget “bucket-and-spade” holidays.
  • The clientele in the Bournemouth area is older than in the North East.