After a couple of years in Seaham, John set up his second shop in Sunderland, where the Hays empire has its headquarters today. The move involved a huge investment of £130,000, but by subletting to other offices the company managed to expand and the number of travel agencies grew steadily to eight by the early 1990s.
Today the company operates 35 retail travel branches in the region.
In 1995, the Hays Travel Independence Group was formed - a consortium for independent retailers who want to benefit from the company’s back office expertise and buying power. The group is made up of more than 130 independent travel agents based across the UK and as far away as Athens and Hyderabad. Hays Travel has also helped college students in the Sunderland area get first hand experience of being a travel agent. CitySun Travel was opened in St Peters Sixth Form College to give the Travel and Tourism Students the chance to book real holidays for their fellow students, staff, family and friends. CitySun Travel opened under the Hays Travel Independence Group.
The company now employs over 800 people, turnover last year was a record £350 million.
Managing director, John Hays, was born and educated in the mining town of Seaham in the North East of England, living with his mother, Peggy, who owned the children’s clothes store where Hays Travel would be born, and his father, Jack, a colliery joiner who made the trellis that would separate the two businesses. He is married to Irene Lucas, formerly Chief Executive of South Tyneside Council.
Hays was educated at a local grammar school, went on to study Maths at Oxford University and complete an MBA at Manchester Business School before returning to his North East roots to set up Hays Travel.