Travel Agents

Travel agent network to acquire Thomas Cook stores, potentially saving thousands of jobs

Christian Fleetwood

Christian Fleetwood

British independent travel agent network Hays Travel has agreed to acquire Thomas Cook’s entire retail portfolio.

Hays Travel hopes to save up to 2,500 jobs at Thomas Cook, after agreeing on Wednesday to acquire all of the company’s 555 high street shops.

The move comes after Thomas Cook was placed in compulsory administration on 23 September.

More than 25 per cent of former Thomas Cook employees have already been employed by Hays Travel, which has proposed re-opening the acquired high street stores with immediate effect, where possible.

“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,” Irene Hays, chair of the Hays Travel Group, said.

“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 and Irene Hays, joint owners of the Hays Travel Group/Twitter (@HaysTravel)
John and Irene Hays, joint owners of the Hays Travel Group/Twitter (@HaysTravel)

The company, jointly owned and managed by husband-and-wife John and Irene Hays, reached sales of more than £1 billion in 2018; it celebrated the success by sharing £1 million with its 1,900 employees, who each received £100 for every year they had worked there.

In the immediate aftermath of the collapse of Thomas Cook, which saw 150,000 British citizens in need of help, more than 600 former employees were offered jobs at Hays Travel.

Hays Travel hopes to take on as many of the 2,500 former Thomas Cook retail employees in the coming weeks.

The company was also involved in response efforts, at the invitation of the Civil Aviation Authority, to support thousands of customers on holiday or with holidays booked with Thomas Cook at the time of its collapse, Hays Travel said.

An estimated 600,000 travellers around the world were left in the lurch as a result of Thomas Cook’s collapse. Hundreds of hotels, dependant on the travel company for business, also face immediate closure.

John Hays said Hays Travel looks forward to welcoming “many more” passionate travel professionals “into our family business”. He added the move was a leap forward for the company.

“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,” he said.

Nick Wyatt, head of research and analysis for the travel and tourism sector at GlobalData, said the deal could turn out favourably for Hays Travel.

“Not many of us saw this deal coming but it is welcomed news for the high street,” Wyatt said. “It is a bold move on Hays’ part, but Thomas Cook is a cherished brand with an established customer base and if Hays has negotiated well, the move may just pay off.

“The deal is not, however, without peril. [Hays Travel] will have to conduct a review of store locations and operations and there may be a need for rationalisation at some point, particularly in areas in which Hays already has a strong presence.

“Hays will also need to make sure it invests in digital trends as competitive online threats to a large store network are legion,” Wyatt said.

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