Lifeline for Thomas Cook staff after shops sold to travel chain

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Staff from Thomas Cook in Northern Ireland have been given a lifeline after Hays Travel, the UK’s largest independent travel agent, today agreed to buy the holiday company’s high street shops.

Hays Travel has acquired the entire retail portfolio of 555 former Thomas Cook shops after it signed a deal with the Official Receiver and Special Managers from KPMG.

There are 23 branches of Thomas Cook in Northern Ireland.

Hays Travel is proposing to re-open the stores with immediate effect where possible and to take on up to 2,500 people.

The company says that it hopes to take on as many of the 2,500 former Thomas Cook retail employees as possible in the coming weeks, doubling its workforce.

Hays Travel is a private company, jointly owned and managed by John Hays, Managing Director and Irene Hays, Chair, of the Hays Travel Group.

Over 100 new jobs will be based at the company’s Sunderland headquarters with the rest in shops across the UK.

Thomas Cook was placed in compulsory liquidation on September 23, when the Official Receiver was appointed by the court as liquidator.

Hays Travel, at the invitation of the Civil Aviation Authority, has been supporting thousands of customers on holiday or those with holidays booked.

Irene Hays said: “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.”

John Hays added: “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.”

The 40-year-old Sunderland-based company reached sales of more than £1bn in 2018 and celebrated by sharing £1m with its 1900 employees, who each received £100 for every year they’d worked there.

Hays Travel has been included in the Sunday Times Best 100 Companies to Work For for several years, and is currently the Investors in People UK’s Best Large Company for Apprenticeships.

Hays Travel has also offered to help all of the Thomas Cook apprentices to complete their training at the Ofsted accredited Hays Travel Academy.