A TRAVEL agency with branches in York has announced mass closures.

Hays Travel has confirmed plans to shut 89 shops as part of a 'planned consolidation of its UK retail estate'.

It has not confirmed which outlets would be casualties of the move.

The York shops include the former Thomas Cook branches in Low Ousegate, Monks Cross and Clifton Moor.

Travel trade union TSSA said it was “a sad but inevitable move” and accuses the government of recklessness.

It is unclear how many of the 388 jobs at risk will be able to transfer to home working or other alternative roles.

Manuel Cortes, TSSA General Secretary, said: “Today’s announcement of 89 Hays Travel shop closures is a sad but inevitable move. With coronavirus rampant and the usual January booking of summer holidays absent, the travel trade continues to suffer.

“The Coronavirus has fundamentally changed our way of life and our ability to travel, but the government has been reckless in its failure to act. We should have had border restrictions and effective test, track and trace implemented last spring when the virus levels could have been controlled.”

Hays acquired Thomas Cook shops in October 2019, and had put off reviewing the performance of those shops to see what 2021 would hold. 

But, it said it had to take action following the third national lockdown and travel ban, causing big holiday operators to suspend flights and holidays.

Jonathon Woodall, chief operating officer, 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, added: “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.

During the lockdown, many staff are currently working from home, taking bookings for holidays for 2021 and beyond.

After Hays Travel announced consultation on 878 redundancies in its Foreign Exchange and Travel Academy in September 2020, 261 permanent and temporary jobs were saved; ultimately there were 451 redundancies with the remainder moving on to other opportunities.