TUI IS to close nearly a third of its high street stores in the UK and Ireland with local stores thought to be among them.
The UK’s biggest tour operator said the “difficult” decision to shut 166 shops is due to the need to cut costs because of the coronavirus pandemic and respond to changes in customer behaviour.
It plans to move 70% of the 900 affected jobs to a new “home-working sales and service team” and relocate staff to vacancies in the remaining 350 stores.
A Tui spokesperson said the company would not be sharing a list of potential store closures during the consultation period but they could confirm that none of the stores that are currently open, which includes the Bradford store on Valley Road, are at risk of closure. Stores in Keighley, Shipley and Cleckheaton are currently shut.
The firm announced in May that it planned to cut around 8,000 jobs globally as it seeks to reduce overhead costs by 30%.
Andrew Flintham, managing director of Tui UK and Ireland, said: “We want to be in the best position to provide excellent customer service, whether it’s in a high street store, over the telephone or online, and will continue to put the customer at the heart of what we do.
“It is therefore imperative that we make these difficult cost decisions, look after our colleagues during such unprecedented uncertainty and also offer a modern customer service.
“Customer behaviours have already changed in recent years, with 70% of all Tui UK bookings taking place online.
“We believe Covid-19 has only accelerated this change in purchasing habits, with people looking to buy online or wishing to speak with travel experts from the comfort of their own home.
“We have world-class travel advisers at Tui, so we hope many of them will become home-workers and continue to offer the personalised service we know our customers value.”
Tui said it will not be publishing a list of potential store closures but none of those which have reopened since coronavirus lockdown restrictions were eased are at risk.
The travel industry has been badly hit by Government restrictions and the collapse in demand during the pandemic.
Tui resumed its flights and holidays programme on July 11 but has cancelled trips to Spain due to the UK’s decision to reimpose quarantine requirements and travel warnings in relation to the country.
Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, which represents staff in the travel trade industry, said: “We have been warning for weeks that high street travel shops could become a thing of the past unless the Government took urgent action to help our industry navigate this crisis.
“Today’s announcement by Tui means that ministers must sit up, smell the coffee and act without further delay.
“We need a bespoke package of measures to save our travel industry. I call on Tui and other employers to engage with our union so we can jointly lobby Government for this to happen.”