A TRAVEL agency is expanding in the North-East following the collapse of Thomas Cook – and is employing four of its former staff members,

Scottish-headquartered agency Barrhead Travel has opened in Darlington.

The company announced its expansion plan in the wake of the Thomas Cook collapse and is planning to open 100 new stores across the UK.

The team in Darlington, based in the Cornmill Centre, is led by former Thomas Cook employee Rhion Singh, who has 31 years’ experience in the industry.

She said: “I am so excited about our new venture in the Cornmill Centre, especially being able to have my original team by my side.

“We’re all really looking forward to opening the doors to welcome the customers of Darlington and the surrounding areas.

“Opening up as Barrhead Travel is a brilliant opportunity to allow us to harness our experience and knowledge.

“Barrhead Travel is a traditional travel agency which means we can sell every single type of holiday and create truly bespoke holidays – from UK breaks and beach escapes to worldwide cruising and off-the-beaten-track adventures.”

The agency, which was officially opened last week, will be fundraising and volunteering for St Teresa’s Hospice through the year.

Employees from Darlington Prospect Place’s former Thomas Cook store have been trained at Barrhead Travel’s dedicated training academy in Glasgow.

The combined expertise of the full team totals almost 100 years of experience from the travel consultants.

The store follows Barrhead Travel’s signature conceptual design and will be equipped with state-of-the-art technology and branded experience areas.

It is one of the first to open as part of the company’s planned expansion.

The first 20 stores are expected to be open by March, with more planned for later in the year.

Jacqueline Dobson, president of Barrhead Travel said: “I am thrilled to welcome Rhion and her team to the Barrhead Travel family.

“The opening of the store reflects our unwavering commitment to the high street travel agency; investment in bricks and mortar has been at the heart of our strategy since we opened our first store in 1975 and we will continue to place focus on the physical customer journey by combining experiential technology and genuine expertise from our local teams.

“We firmly believe that the demand for an experienced and knowledgeable travel agent is still on the rise as holidaymakers seek first-hand sound advice and guaranteed financial protection for their well-earned getaways.”

Founded in 1975, the travel company has more than 85 locations across the UK and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of North-American firm, Travel Leaders Group.

The group are still currently recruiting across their branch network.

Rival travel agency Hays opened in the closed Thomas Cook shop in Darlington’s Prospect Place last year, following the collapse of the firm last September.

The Sunderland company took on more than 500 of the company’s stores, and employed 2,330 former Thomas Cook staff.