EVERY Thomas Cook store will be reopening 'as soon as possible' with 20 stores already welcoming customers today, Friday.

Hays Travel shared the happy news after taking over the travel agents chain earlier this week.

The comany added they were delighted they now have many former Thomas Cook stores open with their original staff in place and that customers were already 'popping in' to welcome them back.

Hays Travel owners John and Irene Hays said they have been overwhelmed by the support they’ve had.

A statment added: “We are really humbled at the fantastic response there has been from our wonderful staff, our customers, suppliers, friends and many complete strangers who believe in what we’re doing.

“There’s a huge will to see our high street shops thrive and we’re determined that we will be doing our bit for the travel industry with the help of everyone in the now extended Hays family.

"We’d like to thank everyone who has helped make this happen - we know the hard work is just beginning for our brilliant teams.”

The company also confirmed they are re-opening all of the 555 Thomas Cook shops 'as soon as possible' and they were making 'excellent progress' to date.

A spokesman added: "There are 1,210 people on the books now with more offers and contracts going out by the hour.

"Our intention is to keep the stores trading profitably and building on some of the Hays Travel business approach and ethos, supported by our brilliant people, we are in good stead.

"We have opened over 20 shops in the last few hours and more will open in the coming days.

"Please feel free to pop into your local branch and say hello to the familiar faces who are now new members of the Hays Travel family."

To date, shops have opened in Northumberland, Teesside, Tyne and Wear, Darlington, Yorkshire, Northern Ireland and Wales.