January 26, 2021 @ 15:32 by Richard Dawson
388 jobs are at risk as Hays Travel announces plans to close 89 of its shops across the UK.
The Sunderland-based travel agent currently operates 535 shops and employs around 7,700 people but, like many companies in the travel industry, has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The family-owned firm had already planned a review of its portfolio and consolidation of its retail estate after taking over every Thomas Cook shop in 2019, doubling its workforce and tripling its shop numbers.
But the third lockdown and travel bans leading to suspended flights and holidays have forced the company to act.
Dame Irene Hays, owner and chair of Hays Travel, said: “It was always our intention to review the performance of our shops at the end of the licence period — we had hoped the business would bounce back in January and it has not.
“We have done everything we could to safeguard jobs and the business thus far, and we have come up with a range of options for those at risk of redundancy to help as many colleagues as we can.”
Hays Travel assures its workforce this it is taking every effort to find those in danger alternative work and is looking into ways to reduce redundancies.
Options for affected staff include working remotely as part of the Hays Travel Homeworking Division or filling vacancies in other stores.
For its customers, the company is currently offering the Hays Travel Peace of Mind Guarantee, which will allow holidaymakers to cancel or rebook for any reason up to six weeks before departure.
Jonathon Woodall, chief operating officer, said: “Our first priority is to continue to look after our customers and we offer the highest standards of customer service through our retail, phone, and online divisions.
“We are continuing with our robust two-year business plan and continue to be ready for the bounce back when it comes.”
In March 2020, Hays Travel was named as one of the Top 100 Employers in the United Kingdom, but it has seen a lot of difficulties in the last year — including the death of its founder.
John Hays, who set up Hays Travel over 40 years ago, tragically passed away in November after collapsing while working at the company’s Sunderland headquarters.