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Hays Travel Ltd is a travel agent based in Sunderland, England. The company has more than 130 branches across the country as well as call centres, websites and over a hundred homeworking agents. It was founded in 1980 by travel entrepreneur, John Hays.
Hays opened the first branch of Hays Travel with no industry experience and only a desk at the back of his mum’s children’s wear shop in Seaham, Co Durham. After a couple of years in Seaham, Hays 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 ten by the early 1990s. The company now operates over 130 retail travel branches across the UK.
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 started sourcing its own product with the introduction of Hays Travel Tour Operating Ltd.
The company also has an award-winning training department, an Investors in People Gold Standard Award and Feefo Gold Trusted Merchant status.
In 2006, Hays Travel was recognised as one of the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For in the UK. They entered the list for a second time in 2016.
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.
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.
Hays has been recognised in the travel industry with many accolades, including a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Agent Achievement Awards in 2008, an Outstanding Achievement Award at the Globes in 2009 and a place in the British Travel Industry Hall of Fame in 2010. In 2010 Hays was also awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Business Administration by the University of Sunderland.
He is married to Irene Lucas, formerly Chief Executive of South Tyneside Council.