Nearly 900 jobs to fill at Hays Travel due to coronavirus and travel restrictions

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The UK’s largest chain of independent travel agencies, Hays Travel, is set to cut nearly 900 jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic and resulting travel restrictions.

That number represents one in five of the 4,500 employees, most of whom work in branches across the UK, from Cornwall to Aberdeenshire.

The owners, John and Irene Hays, said the business crisis caused by the government’s sudden warning against travel to Spain, as well as changes to the holiday schedule, left them no choice.

“We are devastated that after all of our efforts and the huge investment we have made, we are now facing the loss of some of our valued employees through no fault of their own,” the couple said in a statement.

John Hays opened his first travel agency in Seaham, County Durham in 1980, behind his mother’s children’s clothing store.

Within two years he had opened another in Sunderland, where the company is now headquartered. John and his wife Irene Hays are two of the travel industry’s most respected people – especially for the way they stood up for human agents at a time when online sales were on the rise.

After the collapse of Thomas Cook in September 2019, they took over the entire retail business and kept the staff.

Even when the coronavirus pandemic all but brought overseas tourism to a halt, they remained optimistic about the long-term outlook.

Hays seems to have resisted the trend. But what they call “the decision to ban travel to Spain,” with quarantine for returning vacationers, reversed the gains they had made.

The government opened up travel to major Mediterranean sites, including Spain, from July 10 – but just 15 days later, it imposed two weeks of mandatory self-isolation for vacationers in the destination of UK’s favorite vacation.

Travel agencies have found themselves reverting to cash-handing organizations as quickly as possible, a role they’ve been playing since March.

Britain’s largest holiday company Tui last week said it would cut a third of its high-street travel agencies from 516 to 350.

The move was in part the result of the string of financial difficulties that plagued the travel industry this summer, and in part how the coronavirus has accelerated the movement of online shopping habits.

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