Wet summer and icy winter sees Sunderland travel firm’s bookings boom

John Hays, who set up the Sunderland-based travel agents Hays Travel.
John Hays, who set up the Sunderland-based travel agents Hays Travel.
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EVERY snow cloud has a silver lining – just ask John Hays.

With the winter here to stay and the mercury lower than an ice cream man’s career prospects, the boss of Britain’s biggest independent travel agency is looking forward to a bumper year.

Hays Travel boss John is predicting the firm will see sales jump to at least £550million this year, as fed-up families look to head off to the sun.

The industry is still feeling the pinch but Hays secured sales of £520million in the 12 months to the end of October, up from £475million the previous year and like-for-like sales have been rising for the last eight months.

“We are trading really strongly at the moment,” said John. “It is partly down to the weather. The summer was so wet and the winter was so cold that people really want to get away from it.”

With the recession showing no sign of easing, holiday-makers are still spending, but value for money is now more important than ever.

“There is a real return to package holidays. People want value for money and to know what they will be spending before they go.”

And the drive to secure maximum value doesn’t necessarily just mean cheap and cheerful. Exotic locations further afield, where the pound is still comparatively strong, are increasingly attractive.

Launched a year ago, the Hays Faraway brand now brings in £40million a year.