HUNDREDS of jobs are at risk after travel operator TUI announced plans to close a third of its stores.

The UK's biggest tour operator announced the plans to close 166 of its stores this morning, the day after it cancelled all holidays to the Balearic and Canary Islands until August 4.

Around 350 stores will remain open, with the firm planning to move 70 per cent of the 900 staff affected to a new “home-working sales and service team”.

Staff may also be given a chance to relocate to vacancies in remaining stores. 

TUI UK and Ireland managing director Andrew Flintham said: “We want to be in the best position to provide excellent customer service, whether it’s in a high street store, over the telephone or online, and will continue to put the customer at the heart of what we do.

“It is therefore imperative that we make these difficult cost decisions, look after our colleagues during such unprecedented uncertainty and also offer a modern customer service.

“Customer behaviours have already changed in recent years, with 70% of all Tui UK bookings taking place online.

“We believe Covid-19 has only accelerated this change in purchasing habits, with people looking to buy online or wishing to speak with travel experts from the comfort of their own home.

“We have world-clAss travel advisers at Tui, so we hope many of them will become homeworkers and continue to offer the personalised service we know our customers value.”

In May, the firm announced plans to cut around 8,000 jobs across the globe as it tried to reduce overhead costs by 30 per cent.