Dame Irene Hays, owner and chairwoman of Hays Travel Group, is to name P&O Cruises new ship Iona in a ceremony in Southampton on May 16, 2021.
Iona’s naming will take place during a ceremony which will be broadcast to a virtual audience and will include a short performance from Gary Barlow, music director of the 710 Club.
Dame Irene’s husband John, who died last November, founded Hays Travel in 1980 and it has grown to become the UK’s largest independent travel agency group.
P&O Cruises president Paul Ludlow said “We are absolutely delighted that Dame Irene Hays will be Iona’s godmother in a landmark naming ceremony which will be the first stepping stone on the path to the return of the UK cruise industry.
“Since the inception of Hays Travel there is no one who has been more supportive of cruising or been more of an ambassador for the travel industry than Dame Irene Hays. As such there is no one more appropriate to take centre stage on May 16 in this prestigious event as we celebrate her achievements and pay tribute to her husband John.
“The travel industry as a whole has been paused for over a year and has been devastated by the events of the last 13 months. We are so immensely grateful for the support we have received from travel agents across the UK, all of whom have faced commercial challenges none of us could have imagined.
“With domestic cruising opening up from May 17 and our series of UK coastal cruises proving very popular for this summer, recovery is certainly on the horizon and Iona’s arrival into the UK and naming ceremony will be the ray of hope the cruise sector has needed for such a long time.
“We also feel honoured that we are able to support the Hays Travel Charitable Foundation which encourages young people to be the very best they can be across education, sport and the arts. Being able to play a small part in securing the future of the next generation is indeed a privilege.”