UNCERTAINTY surrounds holiday firm TUI's High Street stores in Stourbridge and Halesowen after the company announced 166 outlets are to close in the UK and Ireland as the travel industry battles to survive the Covid-19 crisis.

Tui's shops in Stourbridge High Street and Halesowen High Street are currently closed, with just the branch at intu Merry Hill open locally at present - according to the holiday company's website.

The TUI Group announced in May that it was to reduce its overhead costs globally by 30 per cent and would pursue plans to become more efficient through digitalisation as a result of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic which has left the travel industry in crisis.

The company has not yet released a list of stores set to close as it is currently consulting with staff but a statement said the proposed affected stores have been selected due to local market data, consumer trends and predictions on the future of travel.

It is understood 350 stores will remain open and a new homeworking sales and service team is to be created and the company has said it plans to move 70 per cent of the 900 impacted roles into the new team.

TUI also aims to relocate retail advisers to vacancies across remaining high street stores to preserve expertise and customer service.

Andrew Flintham, managing director TUI UK and Ireland, 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 per cent 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 advisors at TUI, so we hope many of them will become homeworkers and continue to offer the personalised service we know our customers value.”