//Tributes paid to John Hays

Tributes paid to John Hays

Founder of Hays Travel passes away

Tributes continue to flood in for John Hays, the founder of Hays Travel, who has died aged 71.

Hays, who ran the company alongside his wife, Irene, opened his first travel agency in 1980 – becoming one of the most familiar names in the industry.

By Christmas 2018, there were about 180 Hays stores, but it was the acquisition of the Thomas Cook retail estate last year that made him a household name.

In a statement the company said: “It is with the deepest sadness and regret that we have to announce that John Hays, the founder and managing director of Hays Travel, died today, while 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 work in the company’s Sunderland head office when he collapsed.

“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.

“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 UK’s largest independent travel agent as he would have wanted.”

Derek Jones of Kuoni said it was a “privilege” knowing Hays, while journalist and television presenter Steph McGovern called him “one of the good guys in business.”

“He cared so much about his staff and did loads for the [north-east],” she said, labelling him a “true philanthropist”.

Travel writer Simon Calder said: “John was a brilliant travel entrepreneur, providing great service for countless customers and creating jobs for thousands of great staff. He was also a very decent man. Thoughts with Irene and the rest of his family.”

South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck said: “This has absolutely floored me, terrible news. Had many laughs with John over the years, I will remember him fondly. All my love to Irene, their family and their staff.”

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said: “So sad the founder of the North-East travel firm Hays Travel has died after collapsing. Hays invested in my constituency and l opened the new shop last year, such sad news.”

There is a Go Fund Me page set up for Hays Travel Foundation, which you can donate to here.

Read ABTA Magazine‘s Spotlight On feature with Hays Travel, from October 2018, here.


Sam Ballard is a director and co-founder of Waterfront Publishing, creator of ABTA Magazine, Cruise Adviser, Solus and more.