Thomas Cook collapse: Hays Travel plans to double NI workforce

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

Hays Travel, the firm which took on 22 Thomas Cook shops in Northern Ireland, is planning to double its workforce here in 2020, according to its director.

The firm bought all 555 Thomas Cook shops after it collapsed in September with more than £1.7bn of debt.

The collapse triggered the biggest ever peacetime repatriation.

Hays' buyout saved 130 jobs locally but Irene Hays said the Northern Ireland shops need more staff.

"I think we are still about 70 to 80 staff short in the shops," Mrs Hays told Good Morning Ulster.

"Next year, we intend to work with the Northern Ireland government to hire apprentices and we would like 60 to 70 apprentices across our Northern Ireland stores.

"In our business, 47% of our managers started out as apprentices so we're really keen to build that culture."

Mrs Hays said she was confident the stores would be a success, adding that Thomas Cook's shops were not the problem with the business and that people still wanted to buy package holidays.

Hays Travel did not have a presence in Northern Ireland before Thomas Cook's collapse but Mrs Hays added it was "a market we've always been interested in".

Image source, Reuters

"Culturally the warmth of our people and the model would have fitted well with Northern Ireland."

Mrs Hays, from Sunderland, said she felt that there are huge similarities "between people in Northern Ireland and people in the north east".

She said the collapse of Thomas Cook provided an "opportunity for us to buy a significant number of shops and make it work".