A hundred travel agencies to close after TUI-First Choice merger

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Up to a thousand jobs could be axed in the closure of 100 high-street travel agencies after the merger of the German travel company TUI's Thomson division with First Choice.

TUI yesterday said the closures will help it to achieve an extra £50m in annual cost savings on top of the £100m pencilled in.

Around 10 per cent of the Thomson and First Choice high-street network of 1,100 stores will be affected. The closures will target shops which are loss-making or where the company has more than one shop in the same town. TUI also revealed yesterday that it was working on plans to create a low-cost carrier with the airline Lufthansa.

Peter Long, chief executive TUI Travel, said the integration of the bus-inesses was progressing well. "We have developed a clear vision and strategy for growth that goes beyond the delivery of the cost synergies," he said. He said current trading was encouraging. UK mainstream sales for this winter were up 3 per cent, with 16 per cent fewer holidays left to sell than last year. Sales for this summer are 8 per cent higher with 18 per cent left to sell. "For us there is absolutely no correlation with what is going on in the high street," Mr Long added. "We are trading well in the UK."

Unions are seeking urgent talks with the company. Gerry Doherty, general secretary of the TSSA travel union, said that the closures could reduce competition on the high street. "Britain's high street is now dominated by just two travel giants – TUI and Thomas Cook," he said. "We fear more closures as the two firms maximise profits and pressure intensifies from internet holiday bookings."

The merger between First Choice and TUI created Europe's biggest travel group, with 48,000 staff and 27 million customers.