Originally a cabinet maker, Thomas Cook is credited with the invention of the package holiday back in 1841 when he organised all-in railway trips in the UK. He later expanded to Europe and the US. The company expanded over the 19th and 20th century to be one of the largest travel groups in the world and at its demise in 2019, it was Thomas Cook Group PLC, an organisation that included its own airline.
The collapse of Thomas Cook put at risk 22,000 jobs worldwide, with 9,000 in the UK. These jobs include travel reps, airline crews, ground agents, administrative staff, and all those who worked in the Thomas Cook shops.
On 9th October, Hays Travel announced they would be buying and taking over all existing Thomas Cook shops. The amount Hays has paid for the acquisition of the 555 shops is undisclosed. It is believed Hays have purchased a licence for six months enabling them to occupy the Thomas Cook stores, giving the company time to negotiate new deals with the stores' landlords.
Their intention is to save 2,500 jobs in a deal that trebles the number of shops Hays owns and doubles their workforce.
Hays Travel is an independent family-owned firm, formed in Sunderland 40 years ago. Before the deal, Hays had 1900 staff, 190 shops, and in 2018 reported profits of £10 million from sales of £379 million.
Although they have pledged to save as many Thomas Cook shops and jobs as possible, the company is going to have to make decisions in towns and areas where there are stores for both companies. Some areas are completely safe as there is no existing Hays presence such as in Scotland and Wales.
The BBC estimates there are more than 30 locations with competing branches, sometimes on the same street, others just streets apart.
The Thomas Cook shops will be re-opened with existing staff and Hays will institute a re-branding program. Hays are also creating 100 new jobs at their Sunderland headquarters and are encouraging former Thomas Cook staff to apply.
The deal has been welcomed by the UK Government, industry experts and the trade unions.
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