Hays Travel is to cut up to 878 jobs because of new coronavirus travel restrictions, the company announced.
Owners John and Irene Hays said hundreds of thousands of holidays were cancelled after the UK government re-imposed restrictions on travel to Spain including and advising against all non-essential travel to the popular tourist destination and a 14-day quarantine for all people travelling from the country.
The company employs 4,500 people including 2,000 former Thomas Cook employees it took on when the world’s oldest travel firm went bust in October last year. Hays travel took over 555 Thomas Cook shops across the UK, preventing thousands of staff from losing their jobs.
Hays Travel said it has “made every possible effort” to avoid job losses, “including those who were employed when Hays Travel took on the Thomas Cook shops last October.”
The Sunderland-based company said it was now consulting with 344 employees who are in training as travel consultants and the 534 who work in the foreign exchange division.
The firm said its experienced travel sales staff, apprentices and other head office employees would not be affected by the cuts.
Hays said: “We are devastated that after all of our efforts and the huge investment we’ve made we now face losing some of our valued employees, through no fault of their own.
“Following the decision to ban travel to Spain and the changes in furlough conditions coming at the same time, we have had no choice.
“We are also devastated for everyone who may lose their job and we will do all we can in consultations to help them, as we focus on retaining as many people as possible and rebuilding consumer confidence through our renowned friendly and knowledgeable customer service.”
Irene Hays told the BBC it was “impossible to overstate the importance of Spain” on the firm's business.
John Hays said the company disagreed with the government's travel restrictions to Spain, which were updated to include the Balearic and Canary Islands, saying: “Other parts of Spain, on the Costa Del Sol, the islands, Majorca, Tenerife, Lanzarote, Ibiza, the Canaries... the incidence of the virus is very low — less than the UK.
“The German government's reaction has been to quarantine people going to the north-east of Spain, but allow people to go to all of the other places I've just said, and that's a much more targeted and sophisticated approach.”
The UK’s biggest tour operator, rival travel firm Tui (TUI.L) announced last week it is to close nearly a third of its high street stores in the UK and Ireland because of the coronavirus pandemic after cancelling all holidays to Spain after the travel restrictions were reinstated.
The company said it plans to move 70% of the 900 affected jobs to a new “home-working sales and service team.