One of the UK’s largest travel agents has said it will save thousands of jobs at Thomas Cook after a deal to buy all 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.
It also promised to create another 100 jobs at its Sunderland headquarters.
“It is a game-changer for us, almost trebling the number of shops we have and doubling our workforce – and for the industry, which will get to keep some of its most talented people,” said founder John Hays.
“We are looking forward to welcoming many more people who share our passion for the travel industry, into our family business.”
The 178-year-old Thomas Cook 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.
“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.”
Mr 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.”
Hays was founded in County Durham 40 years ago and reached £1 billion in sales last year.