Leading group travel professionals warn that the collapse of West Midlands firm Group Travel Ltd should be a ‘wake-up call’ for the industry.
The coach holiday company stopped trading last week, and local newspapers report many customers are owed hundreds of pounds for trips that have been cancelled.
The company was not a member of Abta, the Coach Tourism Association (CTA), the Association of Group Travel Organisers (Agto) nor the Confederation of Passenger Transport UK (CPT).
The small print in its brochure claimed there was financial protection for customers but there was no indication of how that was provided.
Harold Burke, sales director of just for groups!, said: “How can they produce a brochure without providing details of their bonding? The big question is about who is regulating operators like this.
“Hopefully these customers are protected and won’t be out of pocket, but the stories of outstanding customer refunds dating back to November 2017 and bad trade debts do not sound very promising.”
Burke has written to the CTA saying the collapse “could prove damaging for our industry”.
“I know they are not CTA members but as an industry we need to be confident that operators have to follow a standard that ensures they are regulated and have financial protection in place for their customers,” he wrote.
The company’s head office (pictured) was near Stourbridge, and it had another office in Shrewsbury, Shropshire.
The Stourbridge News reported: “Pensioners fear they have been left out of pocket after a long-running holiday company in Amblecote ceased trading.”
The report said customers had received letters from the company confirming it has ceased trading and holidays have been cancelled.
The company’s website said the firm was established in 1982 and ran group holidays in the UK and Europe, as well as day trips.
Steve Reed, owner of Steve Reed Tourism Ltd, said: “It’s a real shame when established coach and tour companies cease trading like this, especially when they’ve successfully run tours for many years.
“But some of the hidden victims are often hotels that have hosted holiday breaks in good faith but then discover that they have not been paid. That’s the case with this company and it’s a real blow to at least one small hotel we know.”
A spokesman from Agto could not comment on the Group Travel Ltd case as the firm had not been a member, but added: “We do advise our members on all sorts of matters relating to organising trips or holidays, including financial protection, and each member receives our best advice in a handbook annually with the most up-to-date information available to us, including the Travel Package regulations and how they should be adhered to.
“We publish a newsletter quarterly which often mentions members’ obligations and where possible we speak publicly on the subject.”
Councillor Peter Miller, cabinet member responsible for trading standards at Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council, said: “We are aware of the issues at Group Travel Ltd and have had two enquiries from people who have booked trips. We will be investigating whether or not the company has the legally required protection and monitoring how they plan to provide a refund to customers.”
There was no response from Group Travel Ltd to calls from TravelGBI.
UPDATE: A message appeared on the Group Travel Ltd website to confirm the company has ceased trading and is in liquidation.
The statement said: “Paul Brindley was appointed liquidator on Friday 26th January 2018 and all creditors will be notified by letter imminently. Paul Brindley, Midlands Debt Recovery, Alpha House, Tipton Street Sedgley DY3 1HE — Tel : 0800 231 5788.”