The union representing shop staff of collapsed Thomas Cook believes Hays Travel’s takeover of 555 travel agencies will save hundreds of jobs.

The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association welcomed the deal announced earlier this morning.

Hays is the UK’s largest independent travel agent and had already taken on more than 400 former Thomas Cook employees.

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: “This is very welcome news offering real hope of re-employment to former Thomas Cook retail staff, many of whom are our members.

“We have been clear from the start that Thomas Cook was a strong brand and that it was likely parts of the business would be able to move forward as a going concern.

“Throughout the industry the talent, commitment and skills of our members working for Thomas Cook was well known and I have no doubt they will bring the same dedication to Hays.

“We will now move swiftly to gather more details about the deal and are seeking an urgent meeting with Hays about the part our union can play in supporting what will be a significant expansion for them across our high streets.”

Ian Bell, head of travel and tourism at audit, tax and consulting firm RSM, said: ‘The demise of Thomas Cook has left a gap in the market for others to fill so this could well prove to be a shrewd move for Hays.

“Not only do they gain some of the highly regarded former Thomas Cook staff, they will also earn a lot of goodwill from former loyal Thomas Cook customers.

“That said, this deal does represent a huge expansion for Hays Travel – a quadrupling of its travel agency outlets – at a time when a growing number of consumers are shunning high street travel agents in favour of booking online.

“Much may depend on the deals that Hays can strike with its new high street landlords.”

Nick Wyatt, head of travel and tourism at data and analytics firm GlobalData said: “Not many of us saw this deal coming but it is welcomed news for the high street. 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.

“Much will depend on the terms of the deal. As this is breaking news, we don’t yet know the cost of the deal, what terms can be agreed with landlords for example, but this was most certainly a buyer’s market situation so Hays should have been able to negotiate favourable terms.

“Thomas Cook’s demise was the result of a multitude of factors, but at the core was a mountain of debt that was just too costly to service. Group revenue was £9.6 billion for FY2018, so there is still demand for some of the company’s services.

“Hays should be able to operate without the millstone of debt round its neck and the publicity around the Thomas Cook collapse may even spur people to seek out Atol protected package holidays for peace of mind, which will play into Hays’ hands.

“The deal is not however, without peril. It will have to conduct a review of store locations and operations and there may be a need for a rationalization 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.”