Hays Travel Independence Group has cancelled its autumn conference as a result of the Thomas Cook collapse.

A letter went out to members this morning confirming the ’very difficult decision’ to cancel the October 16-19 event at the Rixos Sungate Resort in Turkey.

The event is likely to be rearranged for 2020 and members’ flights will be refunded.

Hays Travel has been appointed to fulfil bookings made by Thomas Cook-owned consortium Freedom Travel Group, and also had its own bookings with Thomas Cook.

Chair Irene Hays said: “We are profoundly sad about the situation. We spent two days agonising about whether to go ahead with the Hays IG conference and tried to do some sounding out among members.

“Some were really looking forward to it, but others just said there was no way they could go at this time. On balance, we decided it was better to tell everyone today. Our customers and service to members comes first and our focus has to be on doing the right thing by them. It was going to be a great conference and we had invested a lot of time and effort and money in it. But the money is secondary.”

Hays said she had already contracted a great venue for next year’s conference which was in a very popular destination. “We are just dotting the Is and crossing the Ts on the contract and should be able to announce that in the next two weeks.”

She also said that Hays might run a “mini-conference in the UK in the spring” for IG members. “This would be just an overnighter in the Midlands. We have got a few new members who were coming out to conference and this would give them a networking opportunity before next year.”

The letter to members, from John Hays and the Hays Travel team, said: “Following this week’s devastating news regarding the failure of the Thomas Cook Group, we have had to review our annual overseas Hays Travel Independence Group conference due to take place 16 October – 19 October at Rixos Sungate Resort.

“Our main priority over the coming weeks will be to ensure that we can give our utmost support to our customers and members during these testing times.

“With that view in mind, we have had to make the very difficult decision to cancel this year’s conference, with further details to be confirmed of a rearranged event in 2020. Details of this will follow by the end of October.

“Over due course, we will be refunding all flight costs so that none of our valued members will be out of pocket.

“Please be assured it is with a heavy heart that we have come to this decision. A lot of work and planning has gone into the conference over the past year. However, due to the unfortunate circumstances which are beyond our control, we hope you can understand why this decision has been made.”

Irene Hays added that the planned official opening of Hays’ new offices, at Gilbridge House in Sunderland, were still going ahead tonight.

“We thought about cancelled as we have a lot of very tired people here, but they all said ‘please don’t cancel’. So we will go ahead as it’s a nice way to say thank you to our teams, and we will be included a toast and tribute to our colleagues at Thomas Cook at the start.”