Comment: TUI Travel agency closures come as no surprise

Travel Weekly editor Sarah LongbottomIt is never easy when shop closures are announced, but the announcement this week that TUI Travel is to close 100 stores should come as little surprise to those in the industry.

Such a sizeable merger is bound to have some casualties. Hardly comforting to those whose jobs may be in doubt, but TUI Travel is hoping most jobs will go naturally rather than down the redundancy route.

On the plus side, the company has forecast a much bigger annual saving as a result of the merger, from £100 million to £150 million per annum from 2010. It also expects to realise the benefits of the merger faster than previously anticipated. This is good news for its remaining employees.

More immediately, TUI Travel has reported positive winter sales figures and is still selling winter holidays at solid prices. Thanks to reduced capacity, summer trading is already up year on year.

This all means that fears of reduced consumer spending in light of the volatile state of the UK economy are, so far, unfounded in the travel sector. The robust British public is maintaining its tradition of prioritising a holiday over tangible rewards, such as a new car.

Cup of tea, anyone?

Tory MP Michael Fabricant has tabled a motion for traditional tea trolleys for passengers waiting in airport immigration halls.

A welcoming cup of char for arriving travellers should help sooth frazzled nerves in the long queues and “compensate people for the long waits they’re now experiencing at passport controls”, said Fabricant.

Airport operator BAA has welcomed the suggestion “to improve the passenger experience”.

Given that BAA is behind the long waits elsewhere at Heathrow – through lack of investment – I doubt it will seriously consider spending money on the national brew. Nice thought from the MP though.

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