The family of the 71-year-old businessman say they are ‘overwhelmed by the thousands of wonderful tributes, offers of support and messages full of love’ they have received.
John, who founded the UK’s largest independent travel agent in 1980, died ‘while doing the job he loved’ after collapsing at the company’s head offices in Sunderland on November 13.
This morning (Wednesday, November 24), hundreds of people have lined the streets of Sunderland as the funeral procession makes its way past the Hays Travel offices.
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Many staff members, who stood wearing face masks, held blue and orange balloons and bunting as they applauded the founder.
News of John Hays’ death prompted an outpouring of tributes from staff, customers, members of Sunderland’s business community and tourism companies from around the world.
He was described as a ‘true gent’ and an ‘amazing boss’ who put Sunderland on the map and who treated his staff like family.
So far more than £23,000 has been donated to the Hays Travel Foundation – which was set up to help young people achieve and be the best that they can be in their health, sport, the arts and education and is described as ‘one of John’s proudest achievements’.
In a statement, his family said: "We are overwhelmed by the thousands of wonderful tributes, offers of support and messages full of love that we have had. They have truly helped us all through these last few days.
“We also want to thank the thousands of people who donated a fiver to John’s pride and joy - the Hays Travel Foundation which helps young people to be the best they can be. And Sunderland City Council who arranged to light up the city’s bridges and monuments.
“John loved his family, his friends, his city, his job and of course his extended Hays Travel family, dearly.
"He would have been honoured and very proud.”