800 jobs go in holiday firm shake-up

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Giant holiday company Thomson is to axe 800 jobs in a major streamlining operation, it was announced today.

The changes will mean a reduction in the number of the company's Lunn Poly high street travel agency shops.

Thomson has also decided to change the name of its holiday airline Britannia to Thomsonfly - the same name as that used by the company's recently-launched Coventry-based low-cost carrier.

The job cuts will effect Thomson Holidays, Britannia and Lunn Poly as the company responds to modern holiday trends.

Thomson said it was reviewing its various holiday brands, such as Magic, Crystal and Simply Travel, and there was a possibility of some of these brands being merged.

A Thomson spokeswoman said today: "The days of everyone walking into a travel agent's to book their holidays are gone.

"We have to take into account the fact that people book on the internet or take independent holidays. The whole shape of the package holiday is changing."

She went on: "However, the package holiday will remain the core part of our business. We will meet demand for more dynamic packages. We want to sell more holidays direct and through the internet and our call centres."

The changes follow the recent departure of Thomson Holidays managing director Chris Mottershead, who has been replaced by Peter Rothwell. Other management staff have also left.

Mr Rothwell said: "This is about reshaping the business so we are able to compete in a much more competitive environment. We have the best brands in the travel industry and a strong track record of profit and innovation in all areas.

"We want to grow and take advantage of new distribution channels, particularly the internet.

"We have already made huge strides in developing fast, user-friendly websites and are number one in the UK in our sector.

"We want to increase the amount of holidays, flight seats and hotel rooms we sell through direct channels as this drives down our distribution costs."

He went on: "However, we have to ensure that our cost base remains competitive and enables us to take on our new competitors.

"It is always difficult to announce job losses and particularly so when our people do such a fantastic job.

"We need to make sure we stay modern and relevant to holidaymakers. The market has changed significantly over the last few years and it's important that we are in tune with how people buy and travel today.

"We believe the changes we are putting in place will make us one of the strongest players in the travel sector."

There are 800 Lunn Poly shops and although this number will be reduced Thomson said it was not planning a major shop-closure programme.

Some of the job losses could be at Thomson's London offices in Kingston-upon-Thames and Camden.