Bye John

By | Category: Travel news

On Friday, news broke that John Hays, one of the best known names in travel, had suddenly died whilst working in the travel company he created with his wife.

John Hays

It was unexpected and the comments by the travel industry were heartfelt – a mixture of not knowing that he had been ill, of gratitude for the work he and his wife, Irene, in saving jobs and of his role in Sunderland and the surrounding villages.

Before the autumn of 2019, few people outside travel might have heard of John and Irene Hays.

But they were soon much more widely known with their offer to take over the retail side of the recently defunct Thomas Cook. many of us expected there to be a rationalisation and shops would close where there was a Hays shop nearby. In the event not many Thomas Cook shops did close and where that happened most staff transferred to Hays’ shops.

In that single move to save so many jobs, the pair became familiar to a wider public as they regularly appeared on television and in interviews. Thomas Cook staff and their families felt grateful, as did the travel industry for saving so many jobs.

Previously in Sunderland and Teeside they were prominent having built a retail empire that exceeded a billion pounds in turnover and for supporting their local community and Sunderland Football Club.

As the business grew to become the largest group of independent travel agents in the UK, there was never any thought that the Hays’ would relocate the business anywhere other than in Sunderland.

In buying the high street shops from the liquidators of Thomas Cook, many people wondered what had possessed the couple. Wasn’t the online solution the one that was the future? Hadn’t the days of the high street shop become numbered?

But the Hays had spotted that the decline in high street travel agencies had levelled off. People were returning to the high street because of the knowledge of the agents, the amount of time it was taking to do the groundwork in deciding on a destination and the security it was giving in not being scammed as some had been by using online suppliers.

That a pandemic was just around the corner which would kill travel for months and turn high streets into no-go areas was unknown to the couple as it was to all of us. When time came to make some of those staff that the Hays’ had recently taken on, both of them were concerned. This is not what had been planned.

Now, on her own, Irene Hays has to find a way through the remaining months of the pandemic before travel returns to something like normality.

To her on behalf of all our readers, we offer our condolences on John’s death.

To her as she faces the future in an industry that has suffered more than many, we wish her good luck and urge all readers to support the remaining half of the duo that did so much to protect travel jobs.

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