Freedom Direct Holidays will help boost online and call centre sales, says Hays Travel boss

Hays Travel’s acquisition of Freedom Direct Holidays will plug a gap in web and call centre dynamic packaging sales for the group, according to boss John Hays.

The miniple bought the failed call centre and online agent and operator last Thursday, saving the jobs of the majority of its 109 staff, including former managing director Nick Jackson and former head of sales Grant Lawson. Chief executive Martin Jones is no longer with the business.

Freedom Direct Holidays will operate as a separate division within Hays Travel and continue to sell dynamic packages, although it will now tap into Hay’s products such as its bed bank Hays Beds.

Hays Travel managing director John Hays said the deal was part of a longer term strategy. He said: “This is not a short term fix. The area where we are weakest has been in the web and call centre arena. By acquiring Freedom Direct we get the client database but we also get expertise; their web development and pay-per-click guys and marketers. This is an area where they can add value to the strength of Hays Travel online.”

He added: “There will be a lot of integration. Obviously there are areas where we think we can make them more efficient and profitable. Our commercial terms are generally stronger.”

The north-east based miniple has bought the intellectual property rights of Freedom Direct, including the customer database, bookings, web addresses and URLs. Its website is now back up and running.

Hays would not say how much the deal was worth, but added: “Although we were not looking to acquire, I see it as fundamentally a good business. We have not gained access to the books but it was having trouble signing off its accounts.”

Sales employees and managers have been given permanent contracts while administration and customer services staff are on short-term contracts. However, Hays is confident these staff will also be taken on permanently.

Staff will be based at Hays Travel offices in Ridley Place, Newcastle, and Vine Place, Sunderland. “The majority of staff have been taken on,” said Hays.

The group is currently looking after bookings of former customers of Freedom Direct Holidays as a priority.

More information:

* Hays Travel buys failed Freedom Direct (April 24, 2009)

* Liquidators of failed Freedom Direct Holidays in talks with interested parties (April 17, 2009)

* Freedom Direct Holidays failure hits 10,000 bookings (April 17, 2009)

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