TUI closures: travel firm to close 48 more UK stores - what are the latest rules on foreign holidays?

The travel industry and the high street are facing “unprecedented pressure” due to ongoing Covid-19 restrictions
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Tui has announced it is planning to close 48 more of its high street stores in the UK due to the ongoing disruption to travel.

The UK’s biggest tour operator has said the travel industry and the high street are both facing “unprecedented pressure” because of the coronavirus pandemic, forcing the company to cut its costs.

The news comes following new Covid-19 regulations set out by the UK government on Tuesday (23 March), which includes a ban on travelling abroad.

TUI is planning to close 48 more of its UK high street storesTUI is planning to close 48 more of its UK high street stores
TUI is planning to close 48 more of its UK high street stores

Under the new laws in England and Wales, it will be illegal to leave the UK without a reasonable excuse from 29 March.

48 stores to close

The closure of 48 stores across the UK will affect 273 Tui employees. However, the company has said those affected will be offered roles in its branches in other locations.

The announcement comes after TUI confirmed in July last year that 166 of its shops forced to close due to the Covid-19 crisis would not reopen, which amounted to nearly a third of its total.

Tui has said it is not publishing a list of the latest potential store closures, but it has issued a statement.

The announcement 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 and do our best to look after our colleagues during such unprecedented uncertainty.

“We believe Covid-19 has only strengthened a 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.”

The travel industry has been badly affected by government restrictions over the last 12 months and has resulted in a collapse in demand during the pandemic.

Tui is currently unable to send people from the UK on holiday due to lockdown restrictions, with foreign holidays not expected to be permitted until mid-May at the earliest.

The travel firm’s revenues in the three months to the end of 2020 fell from £3.39 billion to just £410 million due to the ongoing disruption, which is a drop of 88 per cent.

Tightened travel restrictions

Under new Covid-19 laws in England and Wales, it will be illegal to leave the UK without a reasonable excuse from 29 March.

As such, this means you cannot travel abroad to Spain for a holiday, despite the country lifting its restrictions for UK travellers from 30 March.

The law now states that no-one may leave England to travel to a destination outside of the UK UK, “or travel to, or be present at, an embarkation point for the purpose of travelling from there to a destination outside the United Kingdom” without a reasonable excuse.

As well as a fine of up to £5,000 for flouting the rules, there is also a £200 fixed penalty notice for failing to fill in a travel declaration form, which includes providing personal details and reason for travel, for those planning to leave the UK.

The travel ban does not apply to those going to the common travel area of the Channel Islands, Isle of Man and the Republic of Ireland, unless that is not the final destination.

Exemptions apply for those who need to travel:

For work For study For legal obligations To vote For moving, selling or renting property For some childcare reasons To be present at a birth To visit a dying relative or close friend To attend a funeral To get married or to attend the wedding of a close relative For medical appointments To escape a risk of harm

MPs will vote on the new laws, which are officially titled the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps) (England) Regulations 2021, on Thursday (25 March). If these are approved, they will come into effect from Monday 29 March.

In Scotland, it is currently illegal to travel abroad for holidays and other leisure purposes. The Scottish government has said that foreign travel will not be possible before 17 May and maybe for some time after.

Similarly, in Northern Ireland it is illegal to travel outside the Common Travel Area (UK, Republic of Ireland (ROI), Isle of Man and Channel Islands), unless you have a legally permitted reason to do so.

Rules state that you can only travel abroad if you have an essential reason to do so and you must not travel abroad on holiday.

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