I read how Hays Travel flew to the rescue and saved 2500 jobs and it is a fascinating story.

John and Irene Hays were meant to be in Japan watching the Rugby World Cup. Instead they found themselves competing against two other bidders for the shops to salvage what was left of the business. They were the preferred bidders as the others were US private equity firms who simply wanted to cherry-pick the most profitable shops, whereas they were prepared to take on all of the shops and the entire workforce.



Hays Travel began trading in the back of a clothes shop in Sunderland in 1980. It only made £812 in its first year of trading and only survived by offering free travel insurance to compete against a rival travel agency that opened across the road who were offering customers free taxi rides to the airport.

Hays Travel is now the largest independent travel agency in the UK. Last year its sales hit £1.1bn and to celebrate that milestone, they gave every staff member £100 for every year of service. That gesture alone cost them almost £1m.

One of their cleaners who has worked for the firm for 35 years wept and said that she has never had that much money in her account before. They just wanted to say thank you to all of the staff.


John and Irene Hay have been asked how they can possibly succeed where Thomas Cook failed? They responded by saying that they have a very different business model. Theirs is a family-run business with no shareholders to answer to.

The key points that I took from this feature is that their ethos is customer service and they believe in looking after their staff. They thank their staff for working hard and going the extra mile for their clients. They hire talented individuals, place their trust in them, delegate and let them run their stores the way they think best and repay that trust with results and loyalty.

They have an annual staff party in their back garden on the first Sunday of each July. This year almost 600 employees attended to enjoy a hog roast, live bands, prosecco and Pimm’s with Irene and John go around pouring everyone’s drinks. It’s their way of showing thanks to their staff.

They believe that they can succeed where Thomas Cook failed and make a success of it. They are at an age where they don’t have to do what they did, yet they prefer to invest in their business, create jobs and reward loyal, hard-working employees.

The staff repay that by staying late if they have a customer in front of them. They don’t have to, but they all collectively realise and appreciate that customer service is everything.

They keep the circle positive. Look after your staff and they will look after your customers. How many firms can say that they match Hays Travel’s ethos, morals, principles and values?



I have spoken about the importance of great customer service and how to encourage customer loyalty. In an era where everything is much the same, the only thing that makes a crucial difference is customers is firms being customer-centric. Any firm that does not look after its customers will struggle to survive.

Thomas Cook was a great brand and it is a sorry loss to the High Street. I spoke about the sad demise of Thomas Cook with a fellow consumer champion, Lady Janey. We both took part in the same Daily Mail feature as some of the best consumer champions in the UK and we both share the same desire to make a positive difference to people’s lives, raise awareness of consumer rights and raise standards for everyone.

I can’t be alone in thinking that we put up with any old rubbish in this country and we are just taken for a bunch of mugs.

Hays Travel is a shining example of how things should be done.

What are your thoughts on customer service?

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