Agents across the UK and Ireland have paid tribute to Hays Travel founder John Hays who died suddenly on Friday (13 November).
Mary McKenna, managing director of Tour America, described Hays as a “true gentleman” when she had dinner with John and his wife Irene onboard a Royal Caribbean ship.
“He was a brilliant businessman who was kind and funny,” she added. “We heard some great stories around soccer and Roy Keane and Sunderland. He invited my son and partner to a football game. RIP John.”
Former Hays Travel employee Karen Metcalfe added: “Such a very sad day for Sunderland and the travel industry as a whole. A genuine and much liked man who will be a great miss to many. Thoughts are with Irene, his family and friends.”
Richard Cullen, managing director of Killiney Travel, said: "I am sorry to learn of the untimely death of John and would like to offer our condolences to the family and loyal staff of Hays Travel.”
Cullen also praised Hays for taking over Thomas Cook’s high street shops after the operator collapsed last year which saved thousands of jobs.
Phil Nuttall, chief executive of The Travel Village Group said: "John with Irene created probably the most successful family travel business in the UK and from Paula, myself, Jess Mop & Dan, Carole-Anne & Susan - our family business sends our love and sincere condolences to Irene and the family.
"Even though we were competitors we were friends and that’s how it is in the travel industry. RIP John."