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HUNDREDS of holiday-makers have had their travel dreams dashed and may be thousands of dollars out of pocket with the collapse of two popular tour group operators.
M J Reed Pty Ltd and Reed Holidays Pty Ltd, two Melbourne-based companies that operated Seniors Coach Tours, Young at Heart Holidays and Australian Air Travel, have been placed into voluntary liquidation, leaving about 1000 customers in the lurch.
The companies were appointed administrators on August 21, which triggered the sudden cancellation of trips that were already underway around Australia and left holiday-makers with no choice but to pack up and go home early.
Customers who have already paid for trips later in the year are now unsure whether they’ll get their money back.
Dorothy Harris from Nambucca Heads in NSW said she and her husband were four days into their 25-day holiday with Senior Coach Tours when they were told the trip was over.
The couple had paid $9400 each for the epic tour, which included return flights from Sydney, food, accommodation, coach travel, and activities such as air tours and three cruises.
They were in Katherine, ready to leave their hotel for another ride on the coach, when they were delivered the news on Sunday last week.
“We went to deliver our bags to the bus when the coach captain said they had an announcement to make, and we thought it was just a change in the itinerary,” Mrs Harris told news.com.au.
“But he said ‘I’m very sorry to tell you this, but we got a phone call at 5.30 this morning that said the company is going into liquidation and we are going to take you all to Darwin’.
“The company had organised flights for us, so they took us back to Darwin and got on our flights and came home. We were very shocked.”
Mrs Harris and her husband were due to celebrate their 50th anniversary on the once-in-a-lifetime trip.
They were on the tour with 33 other travellers who, like the Harrises, were now trying to see whether they could get their money back.
“We took out insurance and they had a cancellation policy … we are going to try and claim approximately $7399 each, but we believe most insurance companies don’t cover liquidation. We’ll see,” Mrs Harris said.
Glenn Spooner and Sam Kaso of insolvency firm Cor Cordis have been appointed liquidators of both companies.
Four tours were underway in the Northern Territory and Queensland at the time Cor Cordis took over. Another two tours, which were due to depart on Thursday last week, were also cancelled, affecting about 72 customers.
“We will now work quickly to analyse the financial situation of the businesses and determine a path forward,” Mr Spooner said.
“Unfortunately this appointment will have an impact on all those who have booked holidays through the companies.”
A meeting of creditors is expected to be held in early to mid-September.
Australian Federation of Travel Agents chief executive Jayson Westbury told news.com.au there were a few options for affected customers in the meantime.
“The best advice is if they have paid [for their tour] by credit card, to contact their bank and establish whether they can get a charge back,” he said.
“They should definitely check with their insurance provider to see if there is any protection for this sort of occasion. Some do offer that protection. If not, they should be in contact with the liquidator.”
Mr Westbury said the fall of the Reed travel companies did not suggest a problem in the travel industry.
“Of the 6000 Australian businesses that went into insolvency in the past year, just one was a travel company,” he said.
“Certainly we’ve not seen the collapse of a company for a long time with this level of significant impact to customers. It is not common and it is very unusual.
“But a lot of these people are pensioners and they have saved money and they may not be able to take their holiday. It’s very sad.”
Customers who have already booked tours are urged to contact Cor Cordis on 03 9875 1404.