Travel company TUI has revealed plans to close 166 stores in the UK and Ireland as coronavirus pandemic sinks travel demand.

The store closures are expected to affect 900 staff. Around 630 of the affected workers will be moved to a remote sales and service team, while the remaining 270 roles will be cut by closing overseas customer service centres.

The job cuts, however, will not affect the company’s employees in the UK.

Bloomberg quoted TUI UK and Ireland managing director Andrew Flintham as saying: “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.

“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.”

With Britain advised against travel to Spain, TUI UK was forced to cancel thousands of holidays earlier this week.

Stores are being closed considering various factors, including local market data, consumer trends and predictions on the future of the travel sector.

Following the closure, TUI will have 350 stores in the UK and Ireland.

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.”

In May this year, reports emerged that Tui is planning to cut up to 8,000 jobs as part of cost reduction measures to tackle ‘unquestionably the greatest crisis the industry and Tui has ever faced’ due to the coronavirus.