More than 700 Hays Travel branch managers have taken to the skies today to attend the company’s 30th annual retail managers’ conference.

Four specially chartered Jet2 aircraft took off from Manchester, Newcastle and Stansted this morning to go to Antalya, Turkey.

There was a VIP welcome at the airports for the managers, many of whom are former Thomas Cook staff attending their first conference with the company since their shops were acquired by Hays Travel.


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With them on board two of the flights were owners John and Irene Hays, who were serving snacks in Hays Travel shop uniforms.

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Irene, pictured with Hays managers, travelled with 700 staff from Manchester Airport.

She said: “We always make sure our managers have fun at the conference as they get together from all over the country.  They pack in three full days with some fantastic speakers and workshops and they end up with a unique insight into the latest developments in the travel industry, and masses of information to take back to their branches.

“This year, we will have the added bonus of getting to know our new colleagues.  We’ll also take the chance to recognise and celebrate all the hard work everyone has put in this year, and to thank those from Thomas Cook who joined so quickly and moved mountains to help us get their shops back up and running.

“And we’d also like to thank Jet2 and Rixos Hotels who came to the rescue just four weeks ago when all the plans had to be upscaled, as well as Newcastle, Manchester and Stansted airports, for the outstanding welcome they’ve given us.”

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Jackie Geddis, manager of the Hays Travel branch in Victoria Square, Belfast, and a former Thomas Cook employee of 24 years, said:  “We can’t wait to meet some of the other managers and the staff from head office.

“I’m excited to hear about the Hays Travel plans and strategies for the next year and their vision for the future.  It’s absolutely amazing the freedom of choice we now have as an independent to select any product when suggesting holidays for our customers, so I’m looking forward to meeting some of the suppliers we haven’t had the chance to work with before.”

Hays took on the leases of 555 Cook shops after the company collapsed in September, saving the jobs of more than 2,000 jobs. There are now 450 former Thomas Cook shops open and trading as part of Hays’ portfolio.

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