Hays Travel 'devastated' as it cuts almost 900 jobs

Media caption,
Hays Travel founders tell 5 Live why they’re having to lay off hundreds of staff

The firm which bought Thomas Cook shops has said up to 878 employees out of 4,500 may lose their jobs because of new coronavirus travel restrictions.

Hays Travel took on more than 2,000 former Thomas Cook employees when it went bust in October last year.

Owners John and Irene Hays said Spanish travel restrictions meant hundreds of thousands of holidays were cancelled.

They were "devastated" staff would lose jobs "through no fault of their own", the couple said.

In a joint statement, the Hays said they had "made every possible effort" to protect the jobs of all the firm's staff, "including those who were employed when Hays Travel took on the Thomas Cook shops last October".

The Sunderland-based company said it was now consulting with 344 staff training as travel consultants and the 534 who work in the foreign exchange division.

The firm said its experienced travel sales staff, apprentices and other head office staff were not affected by the cuts.

'No choice'

"We are devastated that after all of our efforts and the huge investment we've made, we now face losing some of our valued employees, through no fault of their own.

"Following the decision to ban travel to Spain and the changes in furlough conditions coming at the same time, we have had no choice," the firm added.

In July, the government brought back a 14-day quarantine for travellers returning to the UK from Spain after a spike in coronavirus cases.

The Foreign Office later updated its advice against all non-essential travel to Spain to include the Balearic and Canary Islands as well as the mainland.

And firms who have furloughed staff during the pandemic had to start contributing to the government job retention scheme from Saturday, putting more pressure on struggling companies.

Mrs Hays told the BBC it was "impossible to overstate the importance of Spain" on the company's business.

Mr Hays said the firm disagreed with the government's approach to quarantining Spain: "Other parts of Spain, on the Costa Del Sol, the islands, Majorca, Tenerife, Lanzarote, Ibiza, the Canaries... the incidence of the virus is very low - less than the UK.

"The German government's reaction has been to quarantine people going to the north-east of Spain, but allow people to go to all of the other places I've just said, and that's a much more targeted and sophisticated approach."

Hays Travel said it had a two-year turnaround plan in place, and that although 2020 "looked really bad", bookings for 2021 were already up on the same period in 2019.

Image source, Hays Travel
Image caption,
Hays Travel took over Thomas Cook's 555 travel agents last October

Hays Travel made the surprise announcement in October 2019 that it was taking charge of all of Thomas Cook's 555 travel agents across the UK, after the 178-year-old firm went out of business. This prevented thousands of staff from losing their jobs.

Under pressure

But the coronavirus pandemic has put major pressure on many parts of the economy, including the travel sector.

Rival travel firm Tui said last week that it would close nearly a third of its High Street stores in the UK and Ireland because of the coronavirus pandemic and in response to changes in customer behaviour.

Meanwhile, on Monday sports retail chain DW Sports announced it had fallen into administration, putting 1,700 jobs at risk.

It followed an announcement by HSBC on Monday that it would accelerate 35,000 job losses and news from Byron Burger on Friday that it would cut 650 jobs and close more than half of its restaurants.

There have been an estimated 150,000 redundancies so far.

Last week's cuts included 450 jobs going at Selfridges, 650 at busmaker Alexander Dennis, 900 at Dyson and 1,200 workers facing redundancy at the National Trust.

Other lay-offs announced during the pandemic have included:

  • Up to 5,000 job cuts at Upper Crust owner SSP Group
  • Up to 700 jobs at Harrods
  • About 600 workers at shirtmaker TM Lewin
  • 1,900 jobs at Café Rouge-owner Casual Dining Group
  • 1,000 jobs at Pret A Manger
  • 1,700 UK jobs at plane-maker Airbus
  • 1,300 crew and 727 pilots at EasyJet
  • 550 jobs at Daily Mirror publisher Reach.

Do you work for Hays Travel? Or are you a former Thomas Cook employee whose job is now at risk? Email haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk.

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