Hays Travel is asking staff to take unpaid leave after the coronavirus caused a huge slump in the travel industry.
The Sunderland business employs more than 5,000 people around the country after a deal last year to buy the retail estate of failed rival Thomas Cook.
But the company has moved to cut its costs by asking staff to take voluntary leave or reduce their hours as thousands of people cancel holiday plans due to fears of catching or spreading the virus.
Hays added it would be reviewing the situation on a daily basis.
The moves come as travel industry trade body Abta has called on the Government to consider “extraordinary” support measures for travel businesses as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Like all businesses we are taking measures to lessen the impact of Coronavirus on our company and at this stage we are simply looking to cut non-essential expenditure and we are asking our colleagues if they wish to take voluntary leave or reduce their hours on a temporary basis.
Hays is the country’s largest independent travel agents, with more than 180 retail shops and annual revenues of more than £1bn.
The firm is also known for the way it treats its staff and was recently voted on the UK’s best companies to work for.
Earlier this week, Abta said that 88% of its members had received enquiries from customers that are due to travel to areas, with concern coming from holidaymakers who are even heading to areas that are not affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
As the outbreak of coronavirus develops, travel businesses are under increasing pressure. They cannot wait to see what may happen in the months to come, we are asking the Government to act now in taking steps to protect them. “Among the travelling public, our priority remains to be proactive in providing up to date fact-based information and to give perspective so they can make informed decisions. ''We are also explaining the protections that are in place if they’re no longer able to travel.”