Hollywood ending for travel agent Don

A travel agent says all 300 jobs are safe after all but one of his 46 branches in North Wales and the North West were acquired by a tourism industry leader.

Don Bircham is going back to the future and will continue to run the very first branch that he set up in Mold with his wife, Ruth, back in 2000 after selling the rest to Hays Travel, the largest independent travel agency in the UK.

He has worked in partnership with Sunderland-based Hays Travel  for more than 22 years, initially trading as Just Go Travel.

Then Don became a franchisee in 2015 and rebranded his operation as Hays Travel North West with its headquarters in Wrexham.

In North Wales, he also had shops in Connah’s Quay, Flint, Prestatyn, Rhyl and Colwyn Bay.

Earlier this year he revealed there was a massive demand for sunshine holidays with bookings up by 25 per cent on pre-Covid levels.

But he feels the time is right to scale back his involvement in the travel industry so he can concentrate on his other business interests, including the Fat Boar gastro pubs in Wrexham and Mold along with the associated CarniBoar steak restaurants in Wrexham and Ruthin.

According to Don, he also wants to help Wrexham make the most of new opportunities created by the global publicity generated by the takeover of Wrexham AFC by Hollywood A-listers Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds.

He said: “Although there has to be an element of sadness that my journey has come to an end, it gives me great comfort that all my staff have found a great home with Hays Travel, our partners for over 20 years.

“All 300 jobs are safe and secure, with little disruption to day-to-day activity and better opportunities for career development and progression.

“I pay tribute to Lindsey Barber, our retail director, the senior management team, and all the staff who have delivered underlying profits of £6 million for the last financial year.

“My thanks to Dame Irene Hays for her support in recent years, and of course to her late husband John. My journey, like so many others in the industry, could not have happened without him.

“I’m not quite ready yet for retirement and I’m delighted that we will retain our very first store in Mold, North Wales and operate it under the Hays Travel brand.

“I also intend to take a more active role in our bar and restaurant portfolio, as well as developing the inbound tourism opportunity that has grown in Wrexham and North Wales since the involvement of Rob McElhenney  and Ryan Reynolds at my beloved Wrexham AFC.”

Dame Irene Hays said: “Don Bircham is a true entrepreneur and among the most experienced people in the travel industry. Just Go is an outstanding business and we are all delighted with this latest acquisition.

“Don employs great people who have delivered fantastic results and we look forward to welcoming them to the Hays Travel family.

“This acquisition has come at a perfect time for Hays Travel as we focus on executing our strategic priorities around cruise and experiential travel. I wish Don all the very best success for the future.”

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