TRAVEL firm TUI is to shut nearly a third of its UK and Ireland stores – but the Ellesmere Port branch will not be one of them.

The tour operator said the "difficult" decision to shut 166 shops is due to the need to cut costs because of the coronavirus pandemic and respond to changes in customer behaviour.

It plans to move 70% of the 900 affected jobs to a new "home-working sales and service team".

A spokeswoman for TUI comfirmed to The Standard that although the company will not be releasing a list of potential shop closures during the consultation period, it can confirm that none of the stores that are currently open are at risk of closure.

The Ellesmere Port superstore – based at the Coliseum Shopping Park – reopened on July 6 having temporarily closed due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

A total of 88 branches, including the store at Broughton Shopping Park, began operating again this month and are not facing the threat of closure.

Andrew Flintham, managing director of 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% 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 advisers at TUI, so we hope many of them will become home-workers and continue to offer the personalised service we know our customers value."