09/10/2019 09:52 BST | Updated 09/10/2019 12:33 BST

Thomas Cook: Hays Travel To Buy 555 Stores, Saving 2,500 Jobs

Hays has already recruited 421 former Thomas Cook staff.

One of the UK’s largest travel agents has said it will save thousands of jobs at Thomas Cook after a deal to buy 555 of the company’s stores around the UK.

Hays Travel has already employed 421 members of Thomas Cook staff since the travel group went out of business last month.

The company now intends to reopen the shops immediately, potentially saving up to 2,500 further jobs.

“This is an extremely positive outcome, and we are delighted to have secured this agreement,” said Jim Tucker, a KPMG partner who was appointed joint special manager of Thomas Cook’s retail division after the failure.

“It provides re-employment opportunities for a significant number of former Thomas Cook employees, and secures the future of retail sites up and down the UK high street.”

The Thomas Cook brand will disappear from the UK high street, the new owners of its 555 stores later said.

Sunderland-based Hays Travel said it did not buy the rights to the Thomas Cook name and would change them to its own branding.

Managing director John Hays said a “good percentage” of the shops will be open and trading on Thursday.

He added: “We will need to talk to the landlords, which we’ve started already. We’re expecting very positive outcomes.”

The 178-year-old travel company folded on September 23 after failing to secure a last-minute rescue deal.

The news left around 150,000 passengers stranded abroad, the last of whom were returned to the UK on Monday.

John and Irene Hays, managing director and group chairwoman of Hays Travel, said: “Thomas Cook was a much-loved brand employing talented people. We look forward to working with many of them.”

Tucker said the administrators would work with Hays to “ensure a smooth transition of the store estate”.

He added: “We are pleased to have achieved this in a short timeframe and in the context of a complex liquidation process, which is testament to a lot of hard work from a number of parties.”