THE founder of Barrhead Travel has said there is no threat to jobs after selling the business to a North American firm in a multi-million pound deal.

Bill Munro believes the buy-out of Scotland’s largest independent travel company will be an opportunity for people to “climb the corporate ladder” and said staff had been kept fully informed ahead of the takeover.

The family-owned firm has been bought by Travel Leaders Group for an undisclosed sum after 43 years of independence but Mr Munro insists that little of its day-to-day operations would change in the near future.

He also predicted a bright future for its 1,000 employees, saying that many had smiles on their faces when news that the deal had been confirmed broke. 

Mr Munro said: “Consolidation is going on throughout the world and we thought we would look for a partner to strengthen the business and also give the people who worked [here] an opportunity to climb the same ladder.

“Travel Leaders speak the same language. We want to expand and we want to look after the workforce who have been with us, sometimes for 20 or 30 years, and I think we felt a social responsibility to look after them and make sure their future was secure.” 

The company began life as a single store in Barrhead and now has 75 locations around the UK.

Recently, it expanded with a new £500,000 outlet in Newcastle, as well as locations in Leicester and Belfast.

Mr Munro remained at the helm until he passed control to his daughter Sharon, who took over as chief executive in 2007.

He said: “There’s mixed feelings, to be honest, and a lot of emotional feelings. Also for my daughter Sharon, who, instead of going on to university, stayed here.

“She was a Saturday girl with Barrhead and then she decided that this was what she wanted to do, so she has been here a long time too. 

“She also is feeling quite emotional about it. We were very careful about who we chose to partner with – someone with the same ideas, the same culture and the same vision. 

“That’s terribly important. We’re not all about money. One has to keep expanding. You can’t keep still, particularly in travel.”

Mr Munro added that the deal had been done with the wellbeing of staff in mind and that the workforce had trusted management to make the right decision.

He said: “We told all the staff - from the cleaner and the tea lady all the way up - months ago that we were looking to do this.

“And I think that the staff trusted us that we had their wellbeing in mind, which we have done. Now that it has been announced, they are all going about with a smile on their faces, so it appears that they are all looking forward to the additional opportunities and challenges it will bring.”

It is expected that the sale will be completed by the end of March.

Mr Munro will serve in a strategic advisory role as chairman of the Barrhead division within Travel Leaders Group, while his daughter will continue to manage the business

Ms Munro said: “Joining with Travel Leaders Group will give us the resources to expand into additional markets, access to new technology and the ability to innovate.

“This agreement creates exciting new prospects for both our enterprises.”

Travel Leaders Group is one of North America’s largest travel companies, encompassing nearly one-third of all travel agents on the continent.

It consistently ranks as one of the top travel companies nationwide and, when the deal is completed, the firm’s UK portfolio will include major UK travel companies including Barrhead, Colletts Travel, Protravel International UK and Tzell UK.

The US-based firm was founded by Welshman Mike Batt, who previously served on the board of British Airways and Alamo Rent-A-Car, as well as serving as president of the Carlson Leisure Group.

The company has more than 40,000 travel agents, mostly working in the US and Canada, making it the largest traditional travel agency company in North America.

Travel Leaders Group chief Ninan Chacko said: “Bill and Sharon Munro have devoted their careers to building this extraordinary business. We’re pleased that the Munro family is entrusting the future of Barrhead, its employees, agents and customers to our organisation.

"We’re excited about this chance to expand our presence in Scotland and the UK overall and the opportunities this affords both companies.”