Travel industry pays tribute to John Hays

by Jessica Pook

Tributes poured in following the news that John Hays, Founder of Hays Travel, passed away suddenly last week, 40 years after he launched the high street agency.

The 71-year-old collapsed at the firm’s head office in Sunderland “while doing the job he loved”.

A statement issued by Hays Travel said: “John built Hays Travel into the UK's largest independent travel agent providing jobs and careers for thousands of young people over 40 years.

“Throughout this past difficult year he did everything in his power to save jobs and protect the travel industry.

“He was held in immense respect by his staff, colleagues, family and friends and was recognised throughout his life for his many achievements.”

Last year Hays Travel took on more than 2,000 former Thomas Cook employees after the company went bust in October. It then went on to acquire the entire retail estate from Thomas Cook, making it the biggest travel agency in the UK.

Across the travel industry heartfelt messages were sent to John and wife Irene, who is co-owner of the agency.

Jane Price, a former Hays Travel agent, said: “John’s sudden death was a dreadful shock and a huge loss both to his immediate family and for his much wider Hays Travel family.”

She continued: “I was a member of that wider family for eight happy years and knew that he took a personal interest in every one of us.

“His timely purchase of the Thomas Cook inventory and generous employment of those made redundant was the stuff of legends. It’s truly tragic that he will never know how much good he, together with Irene, have really achieved. I know that Irene will continue to guide the business wisely and generously.

“He will be missed by an enormous amount of people.”

Owner and Managing Director MVP Travel, Ben Mortimer, said: “John personally signed off on our business plan and took a chance on us as a start-up tour operator. He was a great man and inspirational leader who had a true passion for his business, his employees and the travel industry in general.”

Danny Waine, Head of Membership at ABTA, said: “As someone who is passionate about the travel and tourism industry, I've always admired John Hays and the Hays Travel business. Growing up in the North East of England, it's hard to ignore the Hays juggernaut and over the years, like many others, I've personally been fortunate to spend some time with John; he was very giving with his time and expertise.

Co-founders of Not Just Travel, Steve Witt and Paul Harrison, said: “We are truly shocked and saddened to hear of the sad news about John. John was on our advisory board and great friend to us all – we will miss him hugely. We would like to pass on our sympathies and our thoughts go out to Irene and the family and the Hays team in Sunderland, who are one big family.”

Since John’s passing Hays Travel has appointed three new directors to continue to drive the business forward.

Working with the board and senior leadership team, Jonathon Woodall will act as Chief Operating Officer, to progress the agency's two-year business plan, as John and Irene intended.

Irene, the company’s chair, said: “Jonathon has excelled since he started, and while the circumstances of his promotion are not what anyone would have ever wanted, he has the confidence and support of everyone in the business.”

A gofundme page has been set up for those that would like to donate to the Hays Travel Foundation.

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