Travel agents are slashing marketing budgets and encouraging staff to take second jobs following news of further redundancies in the sector.

This week Avis Europe announced 315 job losses – 5% of the group’s headcount – and the closure of its headquarters in the UK in a restructure saving the company £16 million a year.

Days earlier Travel 2’s Glasgow reservations centre entered a 30-day consultation period as part of a structural review. Between 20 and 100 jobs are expected to go.

Agents admitted January could be crunch time for jobs in the trade, with the Confederation of British Industry predicting a peak of 2.9 million unemployed nationwide next year. One senior agent warned: “January will be the time when companies make these decisions if there isn’t a big bounce-back.”

Already agents said the ­economic downturn was having a drastic effect on forward business, particularly winter sun holidays and city breaks.

Newcastle-based Holiday Discount Centre managing ­director Steve Campion said: “We have encouraged our homeworkers to take second jobs up to Christmas because demand is not there.”

Freedom Direct, in Newcastle, has cut its pay-per-click marketing spend. “We have cut our marketing spend ­significantly but where we are spending we are getting better returns. We are not alone.”

Online retailer has changed its marketing mix. Sales director Andy Washington said: “We are spending more on marketing but the mix of channels has changed.”

Bookable Holidays has switched its focus to ski. Marketing director Craig Ashford said: “We have seen a decline in sales of sun products.”

Kwik Travel general manager and director Stephen Briggs added: “We are working hard to generate as many calls as possible. It’s like trying to push water uphill.”