Holiday giant to shut 166 high street stores

Inside the Tui store at Merry Hill, West Midlands

Tour operator Tui is to shut around one-third of its stores in the UK and Republic of Ireland as it battles the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

166 high street stores will close, which will leave 350 open.

Tui, which includes First Choice and SplashWorld, already took 70% of its bookings online and it believes Covid-19 “has only accelerated this change in purchasing habits”.

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.”

The company said it hopes that many of the affected staff will become homeworkers “and continue to offer the personalised service we know our customers value”.

Tui employs 70,000 globally, and the FTSE 100 group generated£17bn of revenue last year. It has 10,000 staff in the UK and Ireland, serving 6m customers each year.

The tourism sector was already under huge pressure before the arrival of Covid-19.

Last year, Hays Travel bought 555 Thomas Cook stores after the travel giant collapsed in September, as the high street retail model struggled against the efficiency of online competitors.

The pandemic has intensified the problems for holiday companies and tour operators – ruining their 2020 plans, creating uncertainty about when people will be free to travel without the potential of restrictions or lockdowns being imposed, and causing consumers who are worried about job security to rethink their ability to afford holidays.