Six jobs are to be lost in Athlone with the closure of the town’s Budget Travel shop.
The local branch, based in Golden Island shopping centre, is one of 14 Budget Travel outlets across the country which are to close their doors with the loss of 95 jobs.
The Mullingar branch of the travel agent at Harbour Place shopping centre, where five people are currently employed, is also among those which will cease trading.
Budget Travel, Ireland’s largest tour operator, announced a “restructuring” plan for the business last Friday. The company has commenced a 30-day consultation process with its staff.
PR manager for the Budget Travel group, Clem Walsh, said yesterday that the decision to close the local Athlone and Mullingar branches was “very sad”, and was no reflection on the staff in those branches.
“Budget Travel will be in business 35 years next year, and this is a very difficult time for staff and the company. It is very sad, and is no reflection on the staff in these branches. The staff are very qualified travel agents and have been loyal through the years. Unfortunately it is a reflection of the difficult times,” he said.
The details of the cuts were announced in a statement from the company late last week. Of the 95 jobs to be cut, 75 are in branches across the country, while 20 are in the company’s head office. Budget currently employs 266 people.
In addition to Athlone and Mullingar, the branches earmarked for closure are in Liffey Street, Swords, Finglas, Northside Shopping Centre, and Walkinstown in Dublin, as well as Clonmel, Cork, Dundalk, Ennis, Limerick, Tralee, and Waterford.
Announcing the cuts, Budget Travel chief executive, Eugene Corcoran, said that demand had fallen substantially across the Irish travel business this year.
“We estimate that overall demand amongst Irish tour operators is in the order of 40 per cent down on last year and our experience reflects that. The key to the future is to have a business model that has maximum flexibility to respond to volatile demand while remaining profitable,” he said.
“While it is regrettable we have had to take this action it is absolutely essential that we do so in order to remain viable in these very challenging times."
Mr Corcoran also moved to reassure customers that the restructuring would have no impact whatsoever on customers.
"It's important to stress that there are absolutely no implications in this announcement for anyone who has made a booking with us or intends to travel with us in the future.”
He added that a key part of the restructuring would be to drive increased bookings through the internet. "Customers are demonstrating a clear preference for internet bookings and we need to reshape our retail business to reflect that."