The holiday firms Late Rooms and York-based Super Break have collapsed, affecting more than 50,000 travellers. Malvern Group, which owns the booking website LateRooms.com and Super Break, said about 400 Super Break customers were on holiday in the UK or overseas.
Super Break was a member of the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), which operates a scheme to protect holidaymakers and their money. The travel trade body said that most customers affected should be able to get a refund for their trip, and that those already away should be able to continue with their holiday as normal.
The two companies had around 53,000 customers between them, involving 20,000 bookings, with most holidaymakers yet to start their trips. “The majority of customers are yet to travel and in most cases they should be able to obtain a refund, either through ABTA or another financial protection scheme, depending on the type of booking,” a spokesman for ABTA said. “The vast majority of holidaymakers’ arrangements will be covered.”
However, holidaymakers who booked accommodation-only through Super Break are being asked to pay again because Malvern Group has cancelled those bookings and only package trips are financially covered through ABTA. “If you are currently on a break, you may be asked to pay again,” Malvern Group said.
Malvern Group also said Super Break holidaymakers who had bought gift vouchers would not be able to use them.
Late Rooms, which is not an ABTA member, said it did not take payments directly from customers and that it anticipated bookings with accommodation suppliers were secure. “LateRooms.com acted as an agent on behalf of your accommodation supplier, therefore we anticipate that your reservation is secure,” the company said in a statement to customers. “We recommend, however, that you contact your accommodation supplier directly prior to travelling to confirm.”
The parent company, Malvern Group, which employs about 250 staff, has appointed KPMG as administrators. “This is a devastating blow for all of our wonderful employees who have invested so much time and effort into building Malvern, its brands and trips technology platform,” said Hugo Kimber, executive chairman at Malvern Group. “This is equally difficult for all our suppliers, partners, and customers who will be impacted by this news.”
The company blamed the financial woes of Cox & Kings, the Indian tour operator that owns a 49% stake in Malvern Group, for forcing it out of business. “Following news of Cox & Kings India’s loan default a month ago, the situation has deteriorated rapidly, resulting in the withdrawal of any further funding for Malvern Group,” the company said.
In a statement to the Bombay Stock Exchange in late July, Cox & Kings – a separate company from the UK business of the same name – said it is “working closely with its lenders to optimise its asset base globally and bring the situation back to normal as soon as possible”.
The company said: “The management team recently appointed advisors from KPMG to undertake an accelerated sales process to ensure further investment and have engaged with our principal bankers to secure interim funding.”
“Unfortunately, given the short timeframe enabled by our cash position and despite interest from potential purchasers, we have been unable to secure bank support or a sale of the business.”
The Malvern Group’s majority shareholder was the Cayman Islands-based Adiuvat Investment Fund, according to filings at Companies House. The company made a pre-tax loss of £2.3m as revenues fell 10% to £90m in its most recent financial filing the year to the end of March 2018.