ONE of the UK’s largest independent travel agents is investing more than £2 million in a new branch in Southampton city centre.

Scottish firm Barrhead Travel has confirmed plans to open a store in Above Bar, in premises formerly occupied by Vodafone, facing the entrance to Westquay.

The new store will create approximately 12 jobs.

Southampton is the latest outlet adding to Barrhead's network of more than 70 retail outlets across the UK.

Barrhead is investing millions in new store launches across the UK in 2018 covering shop fit outs, staffing, technology, training, IT and support.

The travel retailer said the expansion was needed as the number of customers booking holidays in its stores continued to rise.

Barrhead'’s rapid growth campaign bucks the travel industry trend following the recent closures of other high street travel agents as more holidaymakers book on line.

Company chairman Bill Munro said: “Our strategy remains focussed around our retail outlets. We see more and more customers are booking in store because they want the expertise of our specialists.

“We believe the high street agent is stronger than ever and we are confident that by investing in high-footfall areas such as Southampton city centre, we are allowing our customers easy access to our travel experts. Holidays are an emotional purchase and customers want to feel they are getting the best possible value for money, sound advice from genuine specialists and to know that their holidays are fully financially protected.”

The firm was founded in 1975 and most of its stores are north of the border but it has recently started to expand beyond Scotland and now employs 1,000 staff.

Southampton will be Barrhead’s third branch in England following Newcastle and Leicester.

The new store will have separate cruise and long-haul areas and will have foreign currency unit.