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Travel firm boss aims to keep it in the family

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Travel firm boss aims to keep it in the family

Image caption John and Irene Hays of Hays Travel rescued 555 Thomas Cook shops

The boss of Hays Travel, which bought Thomas Cook's High Street shops after it collapsed, has told the BBC he will not sell the enlarged business.

John Hays, who owns the chain with his wife Irene, said that he received approaches to buy the Sunderland-based business "pretty well every week".

But he had "no intention" to sell the business started in his mother's childrenswear shop in 1980.

"We love the model that we've got," he said

He told BBC's Today programme: "My wife Irene and I own all of the company.

"All the profits that we make, we can put back into the business to grow the business, create more investment more jobs and keep it going".

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Mr Hays was speaking the day after Hays Travel said it would hire an extra 1,500 staff – 200 for at its head office in Sunderland, 500 to handle foreign exchange, and an apprentice for each of its 737 branches.

He said the business had an "urgent need" for staff in January, its busiest time of year.

The Thomas Cook deal has transformed Hays from a business which previously had 190 shops and 1,900 staff to one which which will have 5,700. staff after its hiring spree.

It took on 2,330 former Thomas Cook staff after it agreed to buy the 555 shops run by the 178-year old tour operator, which collapsed in October.

Hays decision to recruit more staff is regarded as a boost for the package holiday market, which involves buying flights and hotels in one bundle.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Customers are picking more exotic, long-haul destinations, according to John Hays

It is a market that Ryanair's chief executive Michael O'Leary has said is "over", although this week EasyJet relaunched its package holiday business.

Mr Hays acknowledged the market was changing, but he said: "The traditional two weeks in the sun is still a major part… but increasing we sell cruises that have a pre-stay or post-stay.

"People might want a few days in Venice, Sydney or Hong Kong, before or after cruises and additionally people are travelling much further afield, much more exotic long-haul holidays. It's a much bigger share of our business. "

Mr Hays told the Today programme that there was a need for High Street stores: "More than half the customers who book in our stores have researched online, on our website or engaged with us by social media – that's the way people operate these days."

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