When Thomas Cook announced it would be going into compulsory liquidation at the end of last month, 2,500 jobs were put at risk. The global travel group had become a household name over the decades. It started as Thomas Cook & Son back in the 18th century and evolved into the Thomas Cook Group, a tour operator and an airline with a worldwide reputation. However, earlier this week, Hays Travel surprisingly came to the rescue – an independent firm with no debt who was willing to take on both Thomas Cook’s staff and its legacy by buying all 555 of its travel agencies.
Hays Travel had humble beginnings – founder John Hays started the business in the back of his mother’s Seaham childrenswear shop in 1980.
However, it has since grown into a nationwide, family-run success. His mother was a director until 1998, and his wife Irene Hays now chairs the company and owns 50.1 percent of the business.
Although the future of Thomas Cook staff who worked for the company's other branches remains unclear, many travel agency workers cried with relief when the deal secured their job safety.
Mr Hays had described it as an “emotional day” and said he intended to “take on all the staff, to welcome them back” in shops branded under the Hays name.
In a 2018 interview with ABTA magazine, Mr Hays revealed how he prides himself on the company’s ability to look after its staff – which may provide yet another bonus for the rescued Thomas Cook staff.
John and Irene Hays have offered former Thomas Cook staff jobs again (Image: North News and GETTY)
For example, last May, Mr Hays announced on Facebook Live that his company had broken £1billion mark for its annual revenue for the first time.
All his 1,900 staff received a bonus as a result.
The CEO told ABTA: “The staff are the biggest reason we reached £1billion. We have second-year apprentices who were awarded £100 right up to a number of people who have done 30 years with us and received £3,000.
“In total we spent £1million celebrating – and the bulk of that went to our staff.”
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They run an independent travel agency (Image: North News)
Thomas Cook went into liquidation last month (Image: GETTY)