Tour operator Tui is to shut 166 high street stores in the UK and the Republic of Ireland in the face of the downturn in travel caused by the coronavirus
Around 350 shops will remain following the closures, which the travel firm said was a result of changes in customer’s shopping habits, with the shift online “accelerated” by the COVID-19 crisis.
The German-based company said that it would seek to move 70% of the 900 staff affected to homeworking sales and services roles, and aim to relocate other employees in the remaining high street stores.
The outlets set to close have been selected considering a number of factors, including local market data, consumer trends and predictions on the future of travel, according to Tui.
Managing director Andrew Flintham said of the store closures: “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 homeworkers and continue to offer the personalised service we know our customers value.”
Tui UK and Ireland employs more than 10,000 staff and serves more than six million customers each year.