A longstanding belief that you should ‘always do the right thing’ has defined Dame Irene’s career, from her positions in government to her leadership role at Hays Travel.
It’s this very belief that propelled Dame Irene and the late John Hays to national prominence in 2019 after they acquired the failing Thomas Cook retail operation, saving over 2,000 jobs and creating an additional 500.
Brought up in Ashington, Northumberland, Dame Irene worked her way through the ranks in local and national government, becoming CEO of Sunderland City Council and South Tyneside Council and serving as Director General of Local Government and Regeneration in Whitehall.
Along with John, she has grown Hays Travel into one of the region’s major employers all while placing a strong emphasis on the personal and professional development of the Hays Travel team.
Their apprenticeship scheme, which is still as popular today as it was when it launched 35 years ago, is testament to the supportive working culture Dame Irene and John have built, with 450 new apprentices expected to join Hays Travel later this year. And for her ongoing support to training, education and young people, she was made a dame in the 2020 New Year Honours List.
Passionate about supporting the next generation to be the best they can be, John and Dame Irene launched the Hays Travel Foundation in 2015 which has awarded over £1 million to community projects, helping to support young people in education, sport, the arts and health.
As Hays Travel chair and owner, Dame Irene is focused on taking forward John’s ambitions for the company with a team who share their passion for the travel industry, a sector which has faced a challenging two years.
But now with the travel industry on the road to recovery, Hays Travel is looking to an exciting future.
Join us for an evening with Dame Irene and learn more about how she is ensuring community, continuous learning and culture is at the heart of Hays Travel.
The small print - This event is exclusively for entrepreneurial members of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum and costs £75+VAT, payable in advance.
We are unable to reimburse this cost if cancellations are received after 12noon on Monday 7th February.