THE holiday firm TUI is to close 166 shops across the UK and Ireland as a result of the impact coronavirus has had on the travel industry.

The firm, which has branches in the Metrocentre, County Durham and Teesside, said it had taken the "difficult" decision to shut a third of its stores.

It has blamed the coronavirus pandemic and changes in customer behaviour on the store closures, although it is not known which will be affected yet.

TUI said it plans to move 70 per cent of the 900 affected jobs to a new "home-working sales and service team".

It will also aim to relocate staff to vacancies in the remaining 350 retail stores.

The firm announced in May that it planned to cut around 8,000 jobs globally as it seeks to reduce overhead costs by 30 per cent.

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."

It comes as Pendragon, which owns Evans Halshaw and Stratstone, confirmed it was axing 15 loss-making dealerships across the UK.

It also warned of potentially 1,800 job losses across the group.