Tornos News — 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 on Friday night.
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.
Smith & Williamson, which has been appointed as administrator, said in a statement that there were approximately 27,000 customers currently at resorts and 110,000 who had booked trips but were yet to set off. About 55% of the group’s customers are British.
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 and Warsaw .
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.
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.
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?’