Hays Travel has managed to redeploy about 250 staff who had been facing redundancy last August as the Covid-19 crisis hit the agency chain.
Dame Irene Hays, chair of Hays Travel, said redundancy notices had been “regrettably” issued to more than 800 employees in August after travel restrictions to Spain were announced in July – the first time Hays Travel had ever made redundancies.
Speaking on Radio Four’s You and Yours programme on Monday, she said: “Fortunately, we have managed to find work for about 250 of those people.
“We’re now down to short of 600 people who regrettably have had to leave.
“That was heart-breaking; 41 years we’ve been in the travel industry and never have had to do that before.
“In order to look after and protect the greater number of jobs, those difficult decisions unfortunately had to be taken.”
She told the programme that the agency chain has coped with the pandemic because it employs “very good people”.
“I think we will come out of this situation this year a lot stronger because of all the experiences in 2020 and the way that our staff have responded with flexibility and determination to get those customers looked after properly,” she said.
The chain saw “a very successful” back-end of 2020, with most customers booking for departures from autumn 2021 onwards.
“I am very positive for 2021,” she said.
“[People] like to speak to a person that, preferably, they booked the holiday with and that they know will look after them.”
She said she and her late husband John had had no regrets about taking over the Thomas Cook agency chain in September 2019.
“At the time we did all the analysis and looked at the evidence,” she said.
“We believe those people have paid us back because of their passion and determination to look after customers.”