John and Irene Hays recognised for contribution to northeast region

Hays Travels' longstanding contribution to the northeast has been recognized by John Hays, Dame Irene Hays, and Dame Irene Hays.
They were awarded a lifetime achievement award from the Entrepreneurs Forum at North East Entrepreneurial Awards. This honors entrepreneurs who are unique and make a significant impact in the region.

Their purchase of Thomas Cook in 2019 was credited with thousands of job losses. They also received praise for their efforts in Sunderland, where Hays Travel is located. They gained national fame after acquiring Cook. They secured 2,300 jobs and tripled Hays' retail estate.

John Hays Travel founder in 1980 died last year at the tender age of 71. Hays Travel, the UK's largest independent agency group has more than 1Billion in annual sales, approximately 7,500 employees, and 450 retail outlets.

John, who has been on the forum's founding board for five year, was honored at the awards ceremony. In 2004, he was also awarded the Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

Irene was recognized for her contributions to the Hays Foundation's apprenticeship program and her involvement in the acquisitions of Thomas Cook and Bath Travel.

She accepted the award and said that John was proud to have received the Entrepreneur of The Year Award in 2004, and would have been equally happy to be awarded this award. It's a great honor to receive the award. I also want to thank Hays Travel for their incredible staff who helped us achieve so many things.

James Robson MBE, forum chairman, stated: Our North East Entrepreneurial awards recognize the innovative and dynamic businesses that are based in the north east. This year was no exception. The Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes individuals who have made a significant contribution to the region over a long period of time, and had a significant impact on our local economy. There are no two people I think are more worthy of this award.

He said: John and Dame Irene made Hays Travel one of the largest employers in the region, while prioritising their employees, their customers' experience, and their contribution to the wider community through Hays Travel Foundation. John, a great entrepreneur and role model, and together with Dame Irene built an exceptional business.

George Freeman, Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, attended the event. The event was hosted by Alfie Joey, writer, comedian, actor and BBC Radio Newcastle presenter.