The co-founder of Harvey World Travel has described its impending closure as “tragic” as it emerged that a group of agents had unsuccessfully tried to buy the brand from Helloworld in a desperate attempt to keep the name alive.
Scott Harvey, who helped establish the network with his father, John, in 1971, said the decision to axe HWT was a huge blow for members, particularly those who have remained loyal to the brand over many years.
Replacing HWT and the other retail networks in the former Jetset Travelworld with Helloworld, was “possibly the wrong way to go”, he said.
To watch the brand vanish after so much effort had been invested in developing the franchise was disappointing, he told Travel Today.
“We did the hard yards, and to see that family history, and that strength and the effort disappear is tragic really,” he said. “I am disappointed, but more so for the people who have shown such loyalty to the brand only to see the rug pulled from under them.
“I moved away some time ago but there are many agents who have been there for many years and shown tremendous loyalty."
In a separate development, it emerged that a group of long standing HWT agents approached Helloworld in an effort to save the brand.
But attempts to acquire the name were rejected, a decision which will effectively see HWT buried.
Amid much fanfare, the agency celebrated a milestone in 2011 when it marked the 60th anniversary of the creation of John Harvey’s real estate business.
But it wasn’t until the early 1970s, in collaboration with son Scott, that HWT began to expand, reaching six shops, which at the time made it the largest privately owned retail travel brand in Australia.
After travelling across the Pacific in 1978 and witnessing the boom in the travel franchise model in the US, HWT really took off.
Early in 1979 they formed Harvey World Travel Franchise Holdings and over the next five years, with Paul Fleming as general manager, the network grew to around 70 agencies.
“After that it started building very quickly, we had momentum,” Scott said. “This was in the day before Flight Centre and our brand recognition was amazing."
"It is very disappointing to see what is happening, but that's what corporations do. I think it was possibly the wrong way to go."
More than 40 years after Scott co-founded the network, the HWT brand still has significant equity. With its awareness still high – it is second only to Flight Centre in retail travel – it is regarded as an iconic travel brand, with many observers believing it should have been retained.
But Helloworld managament believed the brand was too dated to form the cornerstone of its new look retail business and opted for a completely fresh image as it looked to reinvent the business.