The travel industry is mourning the passing of John Hays, the founder and managing director of Hays Travel, who died today at the age of 71.
A statement from the company said he died at work, doing “the job he loved”.
John, who with his wife and co-owner Irene Hays bought the Thomas Cook retail estate a year ago, was at Sunderland head office of the company when he collapsed.
The couple built Hays Travel into the largest independent travel agent in the UK, providing jobs and careers for thousands of young people over 40 years.
Throughout the past year they did everything possible power to save jobs and protect the travel industry for the impact of Covid-19.
A statement from the company said: “He was held in immense respect by his staff, colleagues, family and friends and was recognised throughout his life for his many achievements.
“He was equally proud of his loyal staff who, under the direction of the board and senior management team, will ensure that the business continues to serve the customers of the largest independent travel agent as he would have wanted.”
Hays Travel took over parts of Thomas Cook last year
Hays Travel specialises in providing good value, quality holidays alongside excellent customer service.
Commenting on the passing of John Hays, Andy Cohen, head of ATOL, said: “I’ve had the pleasure of knowing John for over 30 years.
“He was a man of integrity and a very successful businessman who loved the travel industry.
“I spent many hours over the years talking sport, travel and many other subjects with John, who would often offer me advice.
“He was always a pleasure to be around, and I know he will be missed by many.”
Before it took on hundreds of Thomas Cook shops last year, Hays Travel had 190 shops, 1,900 staff, and sales of £379 million, reporting profits of £10 million.
Mark Tanzer, chief executive of travel trade organisation ABTA, said: “We were shocked and saddened to hear this afternoon’s news that John Hays has passed away.
“John was a major figure in the travel industry over many years, and created one of the industry’s most successful companies.”