A DIRECT-SELL tour operator has collapsed after starting a business using travel agents to sell door to door.

Bob Cole Group Travel, based in Kent, specialised in sports and social club travel. It folded on Monday with debts of £400,000.

The failure followed that of Scandinavia specialist Finlandia Travel Agency on December 15, taking the number of UK travel failures this year to 38, up from 29 last year – a rise of 31%.

Bob Cole Group Travel also traded as No 1 for Group Travel and Doorstep Holidays. It was ATOL-protected and a member of ABTA.

Managing director Bob Cole blamed its failure on Doorstep, launched in February at a cost of £350,000.

A franchise operation, it aimed to use agents to deliver brochures to people’s homes and earn commission on bookings. Cole said he had hoped agents would grab the chance to earn extra cash.

But it did not bring in as much business as expected and Cole said the outlay, along with a £100,000 share deal which went wrong, brought down the company. He said: “If we hadn’t launched Doorstep we would still be trading.”

Cole said he was working with Leger Holidays, Orient Lines and other companies to ensure clients could still travel.

Finlandia Travel Agency, which also traded as Nortours, specialised in Santa Claus tours and had an annual turnover of £9 million. It blamed its troubles on fierce competition from online companies. Those booked with Nortours can reclaim their cash from the Civil Aviation Authority. Around 500 families lost their chance to visit Santa this Christmas as a result of the collapse.

They were due to travel to Lapland on a Santa Tour with Nortours. All have been promised refunds but many turned down offers to go with other operators, as they could not afford to pay again for the trip.