October 9, 2019 @ 10:06 by Steven Hugill
A family-run independent North East travel operator has agreed a “game-changer” store takeover deal it says could help save up to 2500 holiday industry jobs.
Hays Travel has acquired Thomas Cook’s entire 550-plus UK retail estate.
Bosses at the Sunderland-headquartered firm propose to open former Thomas Cook branches – empty since the firm’s liquidation last month – with immediate effect, and, where possible, take on up to 2500 people.
They added more than 100 new jobs will be based at Hays Travel’s Sunderland head office, with the rest in shops across the UK.
Hays has already taken on hundreds of ex-Thomas Cook retail employees since the company’s demise.
The deal was revealed today (Wednesday, October 9) by Thomas Cook’s Official Receiver and special managers from KPMG, and John Hays, Hays Travel’s managing director, said he was delighted the business is in a position to support workers back into employment.
He said: “Our staff were devastated to hear about Thomas Cook and we all immediately felt we wanted to help.
“In the last two weeks we have already employed or offered jobs to around 600 former Thomas Cook colleagues, and it has been a very emotional experience for them.
“Now that we are able to re-open the shops, we are looking forward to welcoming many more people who share our passion for the travel industry, into our family business.
“I’m very proud of the fantastic team who have helped me build Hays Travel over almost 40 years and they have worked tirelessly over the last couple of weeks to bring this about.
“It is a game-changer for us, almost trebling the number of shops we have and doubling our workforce – and for the industry, which will get to keep some of its most talented people.”
Irene Hays, chair of the Hays Travel Group, added: “Thomas Cook was a much-loved brand and a pillar of the UK and the global travel industry.
“We will build on the good things Thomas Cook had – not least its people – and that will put us in even better stead for the future.
“We all share a passion for the travel industry and we want to continue to build the company’s reputation for first-class service and being a great place to work and develop a career.”
Operating as the UK’s largest independent travel agent, Hays Travel’s origins can be traced to a retail shop in Seaham, County Durham.
Having grown from its small beginnings, the company now has branches across the UK.
Prior to its Thomas Cook deal, the firm had close to 200 shops spread across the country.
The business also runs the Hays Travel Independence Group, a consortium of independent travel agents, and subsidiary business Just Go Travel, which trades under the Hays Travel brand predominantly across the North West.
David Chapman, Thomas Cook’s official receiver, said: “I am pleased to announce we have reached an agreement with Hays Travel to acquire Thomas Cook’s entire UK retail estate, comprising 555 stores across the country.
“This represents an important step in the liquidation process, as we seek to realise the company’s assets.”
Jim Tucker, partner at KPMG and joint special manager of Thomas Cook’s retail division, said: “This is an extremely positive outcome, and we are delighted to have secured this agreement.
“It provides re-employment opportunities for a significant number of former Thomas Cook employees and secures the future of retail sites up and down the UK high street.
“We are pleased to have achieved this in a short time frame and in the context of a complex liquidation process, which is testament to a lot of hard work from a number of parties.
“Over the weeks ahead, we will work closely with Hays Travel and landlords to ensure a smooth transition of the store estate.”