Outrigger Hotels and Resorts

Published on Friday, November 13, 2020

John Hays dies 'doing the job he loved'

Hays Travel founder John Hays has died after collapsing at work, the company has confirmed.

In a statement, Hays Travel 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."

John, pictured above, at last year's Hays Travel conference, started the company in 1980, when he opened up his first branch in Seaham.

The business went on to employ more than 7,500 people across the UK with almost 550 branches.

Tributes have been pouring in from industry colleagues and local associations in the north east.

Advantage Travel Partnership tweeted: "We are so sad to hear news of the passing of John Hays. Our thoughts with Irene and the Hays family at what must be such an awful time for them all. #onetravelfamily #RIP."

Derek Jones, CEO of Kuoni, said: "Deeply, deeply shocked and saddened by this. John was an inspiration and a true legend of the industry, but more importantly he was a great friend. RIP Haysey…you'll live long and strong in our memories."

Sunderland Football Club called him 'a champion of the North East'.


Mark Tanzer, Chief Executive of ABTA said: "John was a major figure in the travel industry over many years, and created one of the industry's most successful companies. Our thoughts and sympathies are with his wife Irene and his family, colleagues and friends at this very sad time."

Holiday Extras National Retail Manager Lindsay Garvey-Jones said: "So shocked and saddened by this news. John, along with Irene are legends for many reasons. This is a great loss to our industry, their community and their teams across the UK."

Former If Only chief executive Andy Freeth, now non-executive of Inspire My Holiday, tweeted: "Very sad to hear news of the passing of John Hays. Thoughts with Irene and family at what will be a very difficult time."

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 today.

"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."

ABTA Head of Membership Danny Waine called him: "An industry legend, true entrepreneur and inspiration."

He added: "Sending love and best wishes to all of the Hays family and everyone at Hays Travel."

Martin Johnson, Co-Founder and Director of Latin Routes and Polar Routes, said John was 'an industry veteran'. He added: "Hays helped our business so much in the early years when we were part of IG, for which we'll always be grateful. My thoughts are with the whole Hays Travel family."

By Lisa James, Deputy Editor (UK)


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