We are the UK’s largest independent travel agent and the nation’s favourite. We provide excellent value, service, and choice in holidays across land and sea.
With more than 40 years’ experience and 470 high street branches, we are proud to be the UK’s largest independent travel agent.
We are also honoured to be the nation’s favourite.
Thanks to public vote Hays Travel won three gold British Travel Awards 2023: Best National Travel Retailer, Best Travel Agency for Cruise Holidays, and Best Retailer for Forex/Travel Money.
As a family-owned independent agency, what sets Hays Travel apart is our friendly and professional colleagues; we value our people, our customers and the communities where we operate.
Being independent, we can offer our customers impartial advice and an extensive range of travel opportunities from hundreds of suppliers, whether in our branches, via our contact centre, through our network of homeworkers, or via our franchisees and independence group members.
Our community support
Throughout our history, staff across Hays Travel have worked hard to help the communities where we operate. Each year every one of our branches receives £500 to invest in their local community and in 2023 we have invested over £208,000 in local causes and activities, with a specific focus on supporting young people’s mental health.
Our Hays Travel Foundation
We established our Hays Travel Foundation in 2015, with a mission to help young people achieve and be the best that they can be in their health, sport, the arts and education. Working with a wide range of organisations and charities, the Foundation creates opportunities for young people who need a little help to develop to their full potential. To date our Hays Travel Foundation has donated: £1,374,306.
How Hays Travel began is legendary
In 1980, from the back of his mum’s babywear shop in Seaham County Durham, John Hays began selling holidays from a laminated dressing table.
From this humble beginning Hays Travel expanded steadily with shops opening up across the north-east. In 1990 the first Hays Travel call centre opened, and in 1995 the Hays Travel Independence Group was formed. Consortium members retain their own independence and branding, but benefit from Hays Travel’s buying power, technology, and back-office support. In 1997, the company diversified into homeworking, and today has three different options to suit those who prefer more flexibility in their lives.
In 2013 our retail estate expanded hugely with the acquisition of southern England’s largest independent travel agency, Bath Travel. Founded in 1924 and based in Bournemouth, Bath Travel had over 60 branches and 330 employees who joined the Hays Travel family. The acquisition represented a substantial growth in the company’s retail network, with Hays Travel branches now covering Devon, Dorset, Hampshire, Wiltshire, Somerset, and Sussex.
A year later, in 2014, Hays Travel took on its first franchise in the north-west of England, a 14-branch travel agency formerly known as Just Go. Rapid expansion meant that Hays Travel now had almost 49 across three different franchises.
Humble beginnings to high-street heroes
In 2019, John and Irene Hays became ‘Heroes of the high street’ when Hays Travel acquired a lease to operate the former Thomas Cook shops, providing re-employment opportunities to 2,500 staff who were made redundant following the collapse. Another year later in 2020, Hays Travel took over all 20 Tailor Made Travel shops as well as retaining around 100 employees.
The period from 2021 to 2022 was the most challenging in Hays Travel’s history, when it lost its beloved founder John Hays and weathered a global pandemic.
January 2023 saw the biggest trading day in Hays Travel’s history, when customers well and truly returned to travel. The positive start to the turn of year continued and Hays Travel returned to strategic acquisition, first acquiring 45 of franchisee Just Go branches in the North West of England in September, closely followed by a further 16 shops in South Wales when it acquired Travel House.
In addition to these acquisitions Hays Travel also opened new branches in Northern Ireland, Leeds Briggate area, and Gainsborough, and refurbished and relocated others as part of its retail and sustainability strategy.
Hays Travel is committed to ‘growing its own’ and has received many awards for its apprenticeship scheme, which attracts thousands of applicants every year to work in branches across the UK and in each department in its Sunderland Head Office. Apprentices study while earning a salary, gaining valuable on-the-job experience, and achieving a nationally recognised certificate, Hays Travel’s programme retained its good rating following an Ofsted inspection in 2023, with an ‘outstanding’ rating for outcomes for young people.
Today, Hays Travel has huge buying power and invests heavily in state-of-the-art technology. The company has an award-winning in-house training programme, won Large High Street Agency at the Agent Achievement Awards 2023, and is eleventh in the Top 100 Apprenticeship Employers list for 2023. Fully ABTA, ATOL and IATA bonded, it offers customers complete financial security, and its independent status means staff can provide impartial advice and an extensive range of travel opportunities.
1980John Hays opens the first branch of Hays Travel at the back of his mum’s children’s wear shop in Seaham, Co Durham
1982Hays Travel opens second shop in Sunderland, where the company has its headquarters today
1984Third shop opens in Washington, Tyne and Wear
1987Expansion reaches seven shops in the North East
1990First Hays Travel call centre opens
1997The company diversifies into homeworking
2006Hays Travel recognised as one of the Sunday Times’ 100 Best Companies to Work For in the UK
2007Hays Travel Group hit £300 million turnover
2008John Hays honoured with Lifetime Achievement Award at the Agent Achievement Awards
2009John Hays picks up the Outstanding Achievement Award at the Globes
2010Celebrate 30 years and John Hays’ inauguration into the British Travel Industry Hall of Fame
2012Turnover hits the £500 million mark
2013Acquisition of Bath Travel, the South of England’s largest independent travel agency
2014Hays Travel Academy launched
2016Another inclusion in the Sunday Times’ 100 Best Companies to Work For list whilst John Hays is awarded Freedom of the City of Sunderland
2017Turnover reaches £850 million
2018Turnover passes the £1 billion mark
2019Thomas Cook retail estate acquisition
2021Recruited additional 100 HTOL employees