Hays Travel tells Boris to ‘save summer’ as it cuts 900 jobs

Oliver Gill
·2 min read
Empty deck chairs on Magaluf beach in Majorca
Empty deck chairs on Magaluf beach in Majorca

The bosses of Britain’s biggest independent travel agent called on Boris Johnson to save summer by restarting flights to the Spanish islands as they cut up to a fifth of their 4,500-strong workforce.

Hays Travel owners John and Irene Hays said some of the 878 jobs at risk could be saved if the Government introduces “regional travel corridors” to the Spanish islands. 

The firm is being forced into sweeping cutbacks after ministers re-imposed a blanket quarantine on arrivals from Spain on July 25, dealing a brutal blow to the industry on the first weekend of the summer school holiday season.

Insiders were furious that popular tourists destinations with low infection rates such as the Balearic and Canary islands were included in the ban.

Ms Hays said: "We believe that it is retrievable. We also believe that the evidence that we have seen, particularly in relation to the Balearics and the Canaries, is such that they [holidays] could be resumed immediately, as could other parts of mainland Spain. That would repair customer confidence - there is no doubt about that." 

The decision sent sales back to where they were at the start of lockdown when demand had totally collapsed, Ms Hays said. Coupled with a gradual tapering off of the taxpayer-funded furlough scheme, it left Hays with no alternative to cuts.

She said: "When Spain was cancelled down at such short notice it had an impact on customer confidence more widely. People who were just beginning to get their confidence back … that situation changed overnight. It took us back to where we were in April."

Although it became the largest high street travel agent after buying 555 Thomas Cook stores out of administration last year, Mr Hays said his company had not had any contact with officials or ministers.

He added: "They have applied a blanket ban across the whole of Spain which is in contrast to somewhere like Germany. It has taken a much more selective approach and is allowing its tourists to go to places like Tenerife and Majorca."

Last week Tui announced plans to shut a third of its UK stores after the coronavirus pandemic accelerated a trend for customers to book online. 

More than 600 retail staff will join an online sales team and the former FTSE 100 operator plans to cut up to 8,000 jobs globally.

Boris Johnson remains under pressure to take steps to mitigate the impact of travel quarantines, which have been extended to arrivals from Luxembourg. They could be implemented on a rolling basis for countries that experience a spike in the virus.

This weekend, Sir Adrian Montague, the chairman of the airports group that owns Manchester and Stansted, made a rare intervention by calling on ministers to open region “regional air corridors” holiday destinations where inflection rates are lower than on the mainland.