Lowcostholidays goes bust leaving 137,000 holiday bookings at risk

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Lowcostholidays goes bust leaving 137,000 holiday bookings at riskHoliday booking company Lowcost Travelgroup has gone into administration, as uncertainty ahead of the EU referendum and the fall in the pound were blamed for its demise

More than 137,000 travellers had their summer holidays thrown into chaos after one of Britain’s biggest online booking firms collapsed.

LowCostHolidays, run by business tycoon Paul Evans, ceased trading last night.

It currently has 27,000 customers overseas on holidays, and a further 110,000 who have booked trips and were hoping to go abroad in the next few weeks. 

Many now face uncertainty over whether they will get some or any of their money back. And it also emerged many already abroad could be forced to fork out extra for hotels, airport transfers and car parking as these bills may not have been paid by the operator.

It is thought all flights home are covered, but those who have yet to make a trip risk losing their summer holiday altogether. The collapse of LowCostHolidays is particularly controversial because while it sells trips to British customers, its offices are in Spain.

Industry safety-net

When it moved from the UK in 2013 it stopped being covered by an industry safety-net run by travel body ATOL, which protects travellers if the firm they booked with has gone bust.

British airlines regulator the Civil Aviation Authority had tried to block LowCostHolidays from leaving the ATOL scheme – but failed.

A sales adviser from LowCostHolidays told the Mail that the firm’s 80-strong sales team, which remained in the UK, had still been selling holidays to customers just hours before the firm went into administration.

He said yesterday: ‘It seems unethical that the firm was still taking bookings this morning and its website was up and running. It must have known it was in trouble. I had one chap ring up and pay £3,000 for his trip. 

‘I told him that he may as well pay with his debit card because no travel business would go bust over the summer because things were so busy.

The collapse of LowCostHolidays comes ahead of the busiest few days of the year for travel operators, as most schools break up next week.

Travel agencies

LowCostTravelGroup operated travel agencies from the UK and offices in Spain, Switzerland and Poland and had annual sales of £500million. It sold hotel accommodation to holidaymakers through its LowCostHolidays site and to other travel agents through its LowCostBeds company.

Around 120 staff were employed by the company at Gatwick and their jobs are now at risk. Sales staff were mainly self-employed and are now owed thousands of pounds in unpaid earnings.

Last night as news of the collapse became known, confused customers frantically left messages for the company on its Facebook page. One customer, Melissa King, said: ‘What does this mean? I paid for my holiday and leave on the 28th July. Everything has been confirmed and paid for. What does this mean? Where do we stand?’

Another, Terina Hounsell, said: ‘We have a holiday booked in December, taking our granddaughter on her first holiday. Does this mean it is not secure?’ LowCostHolidays owner Paul Evans is understood to live in Majorca. He was privately educated and once lived in a £1.9million, four-bedroom, three-bathroom property in Fulham, West London.

Travel expert

Mr Evans has regularly appeared on TV as a travel expert and has made appearances on Steve Wright’s Radio 2 show. He could not be reached for comment.

In 2013, the CAA warned holidaymakers to be cautious about booking with LowCostHolidays, after the firm announced its move to Majorca. Customers have been urged to contact their travel insurer. Despite not being covered by the UK scheme, trips should be covered by an alternative Spanish version – though refunds could take months.

Accountancy firm Smith & Williamson has been appointed administrator. Partner Finbarr O’Connell claimed the collapse was due to Brexit. He said: ‘The group experienced significant headwinds before the EU referendum... compounded by the Leave vote itself.’ 

Read more here.

RELATED TOPICS: GreeceGreek tourism newsTourism in GreeceGreek islandsHotels in GreeceTravel to GreeceGreek destinations Greek travel marketGreek tourism statisticsGreek tourism report

 

 

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