Travellers Choice CEO and managing director Christian Hunter has revealed just how much the company and its customers were impacted by the tragic collapse of Tempo Holidays and Bentours.
Speaking to Travel Weekly at the agency network’s annual conference in Adelaide last week, Hunter said the failure of Cox and Kings, which saw the shock collapse of Australian companies Tempo Holidays and Bentours, financially and operationally effected his members, and left a distinctly sour taste in the mouth of the industry.
“It’s the one blight over the last 12 months for Travellers Choice”, he said, with the company having recorded another record profit last financial year, taken home the ‘Best Travel Agency Group’ gong at the NTIAs, and received a 100 per cent satisfaction rating from its members (the company’s sole shareholders).
“It was a horrible situation for the whole industry.
“We had everything from members getting phone calls from clients in Russia at 2am in the morning to say, ‘I’ve just arrived at my hotel, but they’re telling me that it hasn’t been paid for. What’s going on?’, when the agent knew nothing about anything, so they were having to try and solve that.
“And again, it’s the agent’s reputation that comes on the line.”
Travellers expect excellence and for everything to be “professionally organised” when they book their travels, Hunter said. But when things went wrong, and bookings were cancelled by Bentours and Tempo, agents had to get involved to fix the issue for their clients all around the world, from Australia.
Hunter explained that a big part of the efforts to salvage their clients’ travels was re-working bookings, all the while not receiving any further commission.
“Even if they weren’t financially impacted through the loss of customer dollars, they were impacted through having to spend a lot of time reorganising a booking they had already worked on,” Hunter told Travel Weekly.
“It was a huge cost. If you look at the time cost as well as the physical, financial losses, it would be quite significant.”
According to a preliminary report into the collapse of Bentours and Tempo Holidays, approximately $38.5 million is owed to unsecured creditors, while the total amount owing for employee entitlements is an estimated $1.2 million. The report noted the primary reason for the collapse of both companies was “the drain on its cash resources through Cox & Kings Group and its inability to recover loans receivable from related entities within the group”.
As Travellers Choice operate independently, Hunter said the company does not have a dedicated scheme to cover them for situations like the Tempo/Bentours collapse.
However, Hunter noted that Travellers Choice has a solution in the form of ‘TC Pay’ through the Australian Federation of Travel Agents’ chargeback scheme, ACS.
In the case of the collapse of Bentours and Tempo Holidays, members who used this process for credit card payments were covered, and had their money returned to them.