All 555 Thomas Cook stores in the UK are to be acquired by a rival travel firm.

Hays Travel is Britain's largest independent travel agent, and has already recruited 421 former Thomas Cook employees. The company hopes to safeguard a further 2,000 Thomas Cook jobs.

“These people didn’t do anything wrong, one day the company went into liquidation and their jobs had gone,” said John Hays, the managing director of Hays Travel. “When we’ve been offering them new positions, they’ve been really emotional. A reasonable percentage have actually cried.”

John and his partner Irene Hays run the Sunderland-based company and took over Thomas Cook's UK travel agency business for an undisclosed fee. Shops will be rebranded under the Hays Travel banner, meaning the Thomas Cook name will disappear from the British high street in the wake of its recent implosion.