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.
Forget business and the travel industry, I have lost a real friend today. John was simply a great guy and an inspiration to me when I started my business. I will long treasure our fun together be it football, snooker or his legendary one piece ski suit #ripjohnhays a great man.
— Miles Morgan (@MMTMan) November 13, 2020
Love this photo of John Hays with Irene… just going to leave it here to put a smile on the face of everyone who had the privilege of knowing him.
RIP John. pic.twitter.com/JYB78O9OuF
— Derek Jones (@Degsy_DJ) November 13, 2020
We are incredibly saddened to learn of the passing of former Vice-Chairman John Hays.
John was a champion of the North East and the City of Sunderland. Our thoughts are with his wife Irene, his family and his friends at this time.
Rest in peace, John ❤️🤍 pic.twitter.com/hoFOZCbG2z
— Sunderland AFC (@SunderlandAFC) November 13, 2020
We have just lost one of the best guys around. John Hays, a true champion of the North East. Sad beyond words.
— Jeff Brown (@JeffAB61) November 13, 2020
So very sad to hear the news about John Hays passing away. He was an industry veteran and Hays helped our business so much in the early years when we were part of IG, for which we’ll always be grateful for. My thoughts are with the whole Hays Travel family.
— Martin Johnson (@Mr_Routes) November 13, 2020
Terribly sad news in the travel industry today, as we learn of the passing of John Hays. Thoughts with his family and the Hays Travel team. RIP.
— Neil Sealy (@Neil_Sealy) November 13, 2020
Read ABTA Magazine‘s Spotlight On feature with Hays Travel, from October 2018, here.