North-east travel agent Hays Travel to cut 89 shops as covid lockdown decimates industry

North-east travel agent Hays Travel is to close 89 shops across the UK after the

North-east travel agent Hays Travel is to close 89 shops across the UK after the covid-19 pandemic devastated the industry.

The business said 388 jobs are now under consultation as part of the consolidation plans, but that it is trying to find affected staff alternative work.

It has yet to confirm which stores will be affected.

The Sunderland-based firm had always been planning a review of its retail portfolio, having snapped up around 550 shops when it acquired Thomas Cook in October 2019.

However, it deferred that review to see if business returned this year.

But as the UK was plunged into a third lockdown and travel ban, leading to tour operators suspending and cancelling flights and holidays, Hays Travel says it has been forced to act now.

Jonathon Woodall, chief operating officer, said the company would begin consulting with 388 retail staff on potential options to reduce the number of redundancies.

He said: “Our first priority is to continue to look after our customers and we offer the highest standards of customer service through our retail, phone and online divisions.

“We are continuing with our robust two-year business plan and continue to be ready for the bounce back when it comes.”

Dame Irene Hays, owner and chair of Hays Travel, said: “It was always our intention to review the performance of our shops at the end of the licence period – we had hoped the business would bounce back in January and it has not.

“We have done everything we could to safeguard jobs and the business thus far, and we have come up with a range of options for those at risk of redundancy to help as many colleagues as we can.”

Among other options, staff will be offered the chance to join the Hays Travel Homeworking Division, to work from home, or take positions in other shops where there is a vacancy.

Hays Travel currently operates 535 shops and employs 7,700 people.

Last September the company launched a consultation on 878 redundancies in its Foreign Exchange and Travel Academy.

Following the consultation 261 permanent and temporary jobs were saved. It said ultimately there were 451 redundancies, with the remainder moving on to other opportunities.

During the lockdown, many staff are currently working from home, taking bookings for holidays for 2021 and beyond, offering the Hays Travel Peace of Mind Guarantee which allows customers to cancel or rebook for any reason up to six weeks before departure.

The company was launched more than 40 years ago by John Hays, who died last year, and his wife Irene.