October 15, 2019 @ 15:20 by Steven Hugill
Nearly 2000 former Thomas Cook staff have returned to work after a North East travel operator salvaged the collapsed company’s retail estate.
Sunderland-headquartered Hays Travel says 1954 ex-employees of the failed business are now on its books.
Hays Travel last week completed a deal for Thomas Cook’s former 555-shop empire, saying it hoped to save as many as 2500 UK-wide jobs.
The independent company has already re-opened almost 170 ex-Thomas Cook branches across the country, which include shops in Northumberland, Teesside, Tyne and Wear, Darlington and Yorkshire.
It has also started trading at sites in London, the Midlands, the South East, South West, North West, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The first Hays Travel holiday booked in a former Thomas Cook shop took place in the South Shields’ Denmark Centre branch, while new branding has also been tried out at a store in The Bridges, Sunderland.
John Hays, owner and managing director, said: “Irene (chair of the Hays Travel Group) and I have been taken aback by the good will and well wishes from the public over the past few days.
“It really has been humbling.
“We’re so proud of our wonderful teams, both old and new, who have come together working around the clock to get as many new branches up and running as quickly as possible.”
John previously called Hays Travel’s move a “game changer”, adding it will almost treble the company’s shop estate and double its workforce.
Hays Travel is the country’s largest independent travel agent.
It also runs the Hays Travel Independence Group, a consortium of independent travel agents, in addition to operating a subsidiary business, Just Go Travel, which trades under the Hays Travel brand predominantly across the North West.
The Sunderland-based company, which can trace its roots back to a store in Seaham, County Durham, reached sales of more than £1 billion in 2018 and celebrated by sharing £1 million with its 1900 employees, who each received £100 for every year they’d worked at the business.