John Hays, founder of the travel firm that is rescuing Thomas Cook’s High Street shops, knows a thing or two about survival.

Soon after setting up Hays Travel in the back of his Mum’s childrenswear shop in 1980, a rival firm appeared.

Mr Hays was forced to offer free travel insurance to win customers – a move that nearly sank the nascent firm.

But 40 years later, Hays Travel is still here and expanding, buying stores shut down when Thomas Cook collapsed.

The takeover by the Sunderland-based travel company could potentially save 2,500 jobs after Thomas Cook went bust two weeks ago.

Thomas Cook staff forced to turn to family for cash Thomas Cook refund website sees 60,000 claims on day one

It will potentially more than double

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