Is this the best boss in the North East? Hays Travel founder throws garden party for almost 600 employees

Is this Britain’s best boss?

By Kevin Clark
Wednesday, 10 July, 2019, 06:00
Getting in the party mood

Hays Travel founder John Hays and wife Irene threw open the garden of their Whitburn home to welcome hundreds of employees.

The firm has been hosting an annual garden party for staff for decades, but this year’s event was the biggest yet, with 580 members of staff descending on John and Irene’s garden, where they enjoyed an afternoon of fun and frolics which included prosecco, Pimms, a hog roast, and entertainment from cover band Foxx.

John Hays entertains the crowd

John was delighted with how the event had gone and that so many employees had made the effort to attend.

“We’ve been holding staff garden parties for more than 30 years now,” he said.

“It started off as just a BBQ in the garden for a handful of staff to say thank you for all their hard work.

“This year I still wanted to say thank you, but it was a slightly bigger affair, with nearly 600 people partying the afternoon away.

John Hays poses for a snap with one of his employees

“I absolutely love seeing everyone enjoying themselves.”

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And there was one particular highlight of the afternoon for music lover John.

“I felt particularly emotional when the band surprised me with a rendition of one of my favourite songs – Wonderwall by Oasis – to celebrate my 70th birthday that’s coming up,” he said.

“It was wonderful looking out seeing all the amazing people who I work with singing and swaying along.

“I feel very lucky and very proud.”

Over almost 40 years, Hays Travel has gone from one shop to become the biggest independent travel agent in the country.

John Hays opened his first travel agency counter at the back of his mother Peggy’s childrenswear shop in Church Street, Seaham, in 1980.

A second shop opened in Vine Place in Sunderland two years later, and by 1987, the firm had seven outlets.

Hays Travel Independence Group was formed in 1995 and the firm introduced homeworking in 1997.

John Hays was awarded the Freedom of the City by Sunderland in 2016, and two years later, turnover hit the £1billion mark, with John marking the occasion by giving every member of staff a £100 bonus for each year of service.