Hays Travel is to close 89 shops as it consolidates its retail estate amid the continued pressures of Covid-19.

The UK’s largest travel agency said it is offering options for alternative work to 388 staff affected.

The company said it had deferred reviewing the performance of the former Thomas Cook shops it acquired in October 2019 to see if business returned in 2021.

All but one of the closures will ex-Cook shops, a spokeswoman confirmed, noting that one was a former Tailor Made Travel store in Wales.

Hays Travel said the third national lockdown and travel ban, leading to major holiday operators suspending flights and holidays, meant it had to act.

Chief operating officer Jonathon Woodall said the company would begin a consultation with the 388 retail staff affected on potential options to reduce the number of redundancies.

“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,” he said. “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.

Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the TSSA union, 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.”