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MyTravel speeds up axe on shops.

Byline: By Hugo Duncan

Tour operator MyTravel is bringing forward the closure of more than 100 of its high street travel agents after internet bookings soared.

MyTravel was due to close 110 Going Places shops by 2007 as it looked to generate more business online as part of a major overhaul.

But with internet sales making up 16 per cent of MyTravel bookings in 2005 compared with nine per cent in 2004, the company said the high street closures would take place this month.

Affected shops include outlets in New Street, Birmingham, Solihull and Wolverhampton.

The company, which ruled out job losses, said it expected the closures to cost pounds 14 million but save pounds 10 million a year.

MyTravel said: "In view of the continuing growth of our internet sales the board has decided to bring forward its planned realignment of its distribution channels and close 110 Going Places shops in November 2005.

"As a result of these closures, the Going Places estate will be reduced to approximately 500 shops by the end of 2006.

"All of the Going Places employees affected by these closures will be offered similar employment within the Group."

The announcement came as MyTravel said trading for the full-year should be in line with expectations despite disruption caused by Hurricane Wilma which cost the firm pounds 4 million.

City analysts have forecast operating profits of pounds 43.6 million compared with losses of pounds 25 million last year.

MyTravel said bookings in Northern Europe reached record levels over the summer and were ahead of expectations, while an improved performance in the UK was driven by capacity reductions, cost cutting and product improvements. Bookings for the winter season in the UK and Northern Europe started slowly, but have picked up in recent weeks.

In Northern Europe winter bookings are down ten per cent on last year although they are five per cent up in the past four weeks. Bookings for North America are at a similar level to last winter.

MyTravel said: "Our emphasis continues to be on margin and not on volume."

The Manchester-based company said business in the UK for this winter and next summer had been hit by the general trend of later bookings which had affected the market as a whole.

Its own package holiday bookings were down by six per cent for the winter, compared with a seven per cent fall in the market, while for next summer its bookings were down by one per cent compared with six per cent for the market.

MyTravel added that margins were under more pressure because of higher fuel costs.

"Progress in 2006 will be affected by the risk of high fuel prices," it said in a statement
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Nov 2, 2005
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