Travel agent stores to close

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TRAVEL agency staff have an anxious wait to learn about the future of their jobs.

Around 2,500 jobs are to be axed at holidays group Thomas Cook after it revealed plans to close 195 of its high street travel agencies.

The job losses, 16 per cent of its 15,500 workforce in the UK and Ireland, will impact workers across its retail network as well as administration and back-office staff.

Thomas Cook, which runs shops in Middleton Grange Shopping Centre, in Hartlepool, and Peterlee town centre, said the moves were being made as part of a restructuring and to slash administration costs.

Details of which stores are being closed has not yet been released.

Having recently shut 149 stores, Thomas Cook will be left with 874 travel agencies across the UK and Northern Ireland.

Thomas Cook is also planning to shut its Accrington office in the North West in a move impacting around 100 roles.

Administrative and managerial jobs are also at risk across its head office in Peterborough and its Preston site.

Thomas Cook also has offices in Egham, in Surrey, Brighton, and Birkenshaw, in West Yorkshire.

Thomas Cook’s recently appointed UK and Ireland chief executive, Peter Fankhauser, said the proposals will help return the group to profitability.

The firm slumped to a £590m loss in its last financial year and is working on plans to slash costs.

As well as shutting stores, the UK’s second-biggest travel company has trimmed its airline fleet and sold off hotels after it was forced to turn to its banks for an additional £200m of loans in 2011.

Mr Fankhauser said: “Thomas Cook is a much-loved brand that needs to make the proposed changes to secure our future and provide continued employment for many thousands across the UK and better meet the needs of our customers going forward.

“It is never easy to make decisions that impact directly on our people, but we also owe it to our customers to operate efficiently and ensure that when they book their holiday with us our administrative costs are as low as possible.”

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