Published: 15:31, 26 January 2021
| Updated: 15:34, 26 January 2021
The UK's largest travel agency has announced it is closing two of its Kent stores.
The firm has been operating for 40 years, and in 2019 bought the entire retail portfolio of travel agency Thomas Cook, doubling its workforce and trebling its shop numbers.
But following a third national lockdown and a travel ban leading to major holiday operators suspending flights and holidays, it has decided not to renew the leases on 89 of its shops.
It is offering options for alternative work to 388 staff that will be affected by the move - including the chance to work from home, or take positions in other shops.
This includes branches in Ashford, Canterbury, Whitstable, Deal, Sittingbourne, Sheerness, Orpington and Bexleyheath, along with those in shopping centres including Hempstead Valley in Gillingham, Bluewater in Greenhithe, Chequers Shopping Centre in Maidstone, and Westwood Cross in Thanet.
CEO Jonathon Woodall 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.”