New hope for Thomas Cook staff as travel agent agrees to buy collapsed firm's stores

The ninth Thomas Cook's new concept Discovery stores, in Serpentine Green. Could it reopen?
The ninth Thomas Cook's new concept Discovery stores, in Serpentine Green. Could it reopen?
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Hundreds of Thomas Cook jobs could have been saved after an independent travel agent agreed to buy the failed firm's high street shops.

The UK’s largest independent travel agent, Hays Travel has agreed to acquire the entire retail portfolio of 555 former Thomas Cook shops after it signed a deal with the Official Receiver and Special Managers from KPMG.

It is thought the move could save up to 2,500 jobs and comes just weeks after the 178-year-old Thomas Cook went into liquidation.

Thomas Cook operated stores in Peterborough's Queensgate shopping centre and at Serpentine Green, where it opened its ninth new concept store in September 2017 and which had 20 staff.

Hays Travel, based in Sunderland, says it plans to re-open the stores with immediate effect where possible and to take on up to 2,500 people.

Irene Hays, Chair of the Hays Travel Group, said: "Thomas Cook was a much-loved brand and a pillar of the UK and the global travel industry.

"We will build on the good things Thomas Cook had – not least its people – and that will put us in even better stead for the future.

"We all share a passion for the travel industry and we want to continue to build the company’s reputation for first class service and being a great place to work and develop a career.”

Managing director John Hays said: “Our staff were devastated to hear about Thomas Cook and we all immediately felt we wanted to help.

“In the last two weeks we have already employed or offered jobs to around 600 former Thomas Cook colleagues, and it has been a very emotional experience for them.

"Now that we are able to re-open the shops, we are looking forward to welcoming many more people who share our passion for the travel industry, into our family business.

“I’m very proud of the fantastic team who have helped me build Hays Travel over almost 40 years and they have worked tirelessly over the last couple of weeks to bring this about.

"It is a game-changer for us, almost trebling the number of shops we have and doubling our workforce - and for the industry, which will get to keep some of its most talented people.”

The move has been welcomed by Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the travel union TSSA, which represented workers in Thomas Cook shops around the UK and in its head office in Peterborough.

He said: "This is very welcome news offering real hope of reemployment to former Thomas Cook retail staff, many of whom are our members.

“We have been clear from the start that Thomas Cook was a strong brand and that it was likely parts of the business would be able to move forward as a going concern.

“Throughout the industry the talent, commitment and skills of our members working for Thomas Cook was well known and I have no doubt they will bring the same dedication to Hays.

“We will now move swiftly to gather more details about the deal and are seeking an urgent meeting with Hays about the part our union can play in supporting what will be a significant expansion for them across our high streets.”

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