The travel industry has been reacting  to the news that Hays Travel will acquire Thomas Cook’s retail estate of 555 stores around the UK.

John McEwan, former managing director of Thomas Cook praised John and Irene Hays, describing the move as “very brave”

He said: “It’s a very positive and good move for them. There are some fantastic staff at Thomas Cook and I hope they will get opportunity through the deal – though some will have moved on within the past 10 days. The insight these staff will have to the local consumer base will be a real asset.”

McEwan added: “The acquisition of the Thomas Cook retail shops also provides John Hays with some challenges. He runs a lean and mean structure to cope with the shops he already has.”

He said it will take Hays Travel into areas where they aren’t represented, but added, “equally they will have duplication in some areas. ”


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“This deal firmly establishes Hays as the leading independent agency. All in all, I’m positive about it all but it will be a big challenge”, said McEwan.

Shane Lewis-Riley, director of international sales, UK and Australia for Virgin Voyages, said: “What brilliant news for our industry. I’m certain Hays Travel will do an incredible job. So much respect for John and Irene.”

Fareham-based Carla Hodgson, who is a homeworker for Hays Travel, said: “Love my boss, he is amazing, giving hope back to others, there is a lot of love to share in our Hays family, everyone welcome to join us with open arms.”

Kuoni UK managing director Derek Jones said: “I have nothing but admiration for John and Irene. I wish them and the team every success in the future. What an amazing vote of confidence in the travel retail model.”

Giles Hawke, chief executive of Cosmos, said: “It’s fantastic. It’s brilliant for all the staff who didn’t think they had a job. It restores faith in the high street and reinforces to those agencies on the high street they are doing the right thing despite competition form online and direct sales.

“John doesn’t need to do this, he’s very successful. They are taking on a big commitment and a load of work but they must have taken it with the intention of making it work.”

Jenny Jackson, homeworker, Classic Travel, said: “Great news, well done Hays, shame this had not happened earlier, it could have been a whole different story and the airline could still be operating.”

Former Freedom Travel Group head, Matt Harding tweeted: “Incredible news for the industry and all the retail staff affected. Well done John and Irene (Hays).”

John Sullivan, head of commercial at Advantage Travel Partnership, said: “I’m thrilled that so many staff will hopefully be retained as a result of this deal.” However, without outstanding the detail, I don’t think any of us really know what the future looks like for these retail shops.

“In the meantime, I think all operators need to consider their distribution and not put all their eggs in one basket.”

Hays operates a number of branches which share locations with Thomas Cook stores.

Travel agent Ashley Quint, of Travel Time World, speculated on store duplication, tweeting: “Once the leases are up they will probably close the duplicate ones. Just as Thomson did with First Choice & Thomas Cook with Going Places.”

Hays has been operating for 40 years and reached sales of more than £1bn in 2018. It has already recruited 421 former Cook staff and has further offers for former employees.