Who are Hays Travel? The business success story as firm set to save 2,500 jobs with deal to buy 555 Thomas Cook stores

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Around 2,500 jobs could be saved after it was revealed that north east firm Hays Travel plan tobuy 555 Thomas Cook stores after the collapse of the holiday company.

But who are Hays Travel – and what is the story behind the success of their business?

Here we look at how the company grew from humble origins into the major operation it is today...

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John Hays founded the business in Seaham, County Durham, 40 years ago.

John and Irene HaysJohn and Irene Hays
John and Irene Hays

In his first year, sales amounted to £812. In 2018 turnover surpassed £1billion sales per annum.

Now with brand new headquarters in Sunderland, the business operates 190 of its own branches across the UK, employs 1,900 people and in addition has the services of 250 experienced travel agents who are self-employed homeworkers.

The UK's largest independent travel agent, it is a family business owned by John and his wife Irene, who is Hays Travel Group Chair, and specialises in good value, quality holidays with excellent customer service.

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The company also runs the Hays Travel Independence Group, a consortium of independent travel agents who benefit from Hays Travel's buying power, technology and back-office expertise.

Hays Travel owner John HaysHays Travel owner John Hays
Hays Travel owner John Hays

A subsidiary business, Just Go Travel, trades under the Hays Travel brand in the North West.

The business has been included in the Sunday Times Best Company to Work For for several years and holds the prestigious Investors in People Gold standard, and is currently Investors in People UK's Best Large Company for Apprenticeships.

The Hays Travel Charitable Foundation has distributed £1.6million so far to organisations across the UK.

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In addition, its Community Partnership programme gives all branch managers an annual fund to encourage staff to get involved in schools and community organisations.

The company is committed to the development of its people, especially young people and the national and international travel industry.

It has the only "good" Ofsted rated travel academy in the country which has seen over 600 graduates so far.

John is a graduate of Oxford University where he read mathematics. He also has a Master's Degree in Business Administration.

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He has driven the company from initial sales of £812 per annum to £1.05billion in 2017/18.

John's significant achievements and contribution to the development of the British travel industry have been recognised many times over the last decade.

He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement award, and an Outstanding Achievement Award from the Globe Travel Awards and was recently welcomed intothe exclusive British Travel Industry "Hall of Fame" alongside Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson and Travelex founder Sir Lloyd Dorfman.

He was awarded an honorary doctorate from Sunderland University and given the Freedom of the City of Sunderland recognising his major contribution to the economy of the city and the growth of the travel industry.

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Irene Hays CBE Irene has had a long career in local government as Chief Executive of two large local authorities, ending her career in Whitehall, where she was responsible for advising Ministers and Secretaries of State and was accountable to Parliament.

She is highly regarded for her innovative and visionary approach to public administration and was awarded a CBE in recognition of her service in 2008.

Irene was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award earlier this year for her contribution to the economic development of the North East region and supporting business, whether large, such as Nissan, or SMEs needing help.

She also has a consultancy business specialising in business growth and regeneration. She has a Master's degree in Business Administration.

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