Travel firm chairman John Hays has been honoured by the Institute of Travel and Tourism.
The founder of Hays Travel was presented with the Odyssey Award in recognition of his contribution to the industry at a special awards ceremony at London’s Dorchester Hotel.
The Odyssey Award is only presented as and when the Board of the Institute of Travel & Tourism feels that nominated individuals meets the high criteria for the award.
Previous recipients include Carolyn McCall, Peter Long, Harry Goodman and Sir Richard Branson.
Steven Freudmann, chairman of the Institute of Travel and Tourism (ITT) said: “John joins a list of impressive winners.
“In choosing John, the board was mindful of the fact that he has led his company from humble beginnings to the largest independent travel agency in the UK with a turnover in excess of £700m and throughout that period has always looked after both his staff and his customers.
“John Hays was the unanimous choice of the ITT Board of Directors.
“There can be no question that John has played a significant part in the development of the travel industry over many years, particularly the independent sector.”
Mr Hays founded Hays Travel in the back of his mother’s childrenswear shop in Seaham, County Durham. Hays has now been in the travel industry for more than three decades and Hays Travel are performing better than ever, and are targeting to turnover £1bn in the next five years.
The firm operates more than 100 retail shops and employs more than 1,000 people across the UK.
In August the company acquired the lucrative customer base of respected Newcastle firm Jesmond Travel as part of growth plans triggered by the economic pick-up.
Mr Hays said: “To be recognised in this way in front of the travel industries ‘great and good’ in the beautiful Dorchester Hotel made this an emotional and special night for me. I am so proud of our people and teams and of our North East heritage. The lady making the award even wore a red dress and a Sunderland AFC scarf for the presentation!”