Rescue deadline looms for Travelscope

A deadline of lunchtime Friday January 4 has been set for offers to buy part or all of failed tour operator Travelscope.

More than 40 parties have shown an interest since the operator went into administration to seek refinancing on December 21 affecting 45,000 customers.

The 15-year-old company sold escorted tours and cruises through reader offers and independent agents. Cashflow problems included a £1.5 million arbitration against the company and £6 million new offices funded out of the company’s cashflow.

Urgent talks were held this week to protect future bookings and around seven potential buyers have visited Travelscope’s Gloucester offices.

The company could be split into four – air travel, coach travel, river and ocean cruising – to be sold off.

Paul Clark, joint administrator, Menzies Corporate Restructuring, said: “It’s never easy to sell a business at this time of year but I’m hopeful at least three or four parties will put forward sensible offers.”

There were 10,000 holidaymakers booked to go away over Christmas and New Year, 30,000 booked for 2008 and 5,000 for 2009.

Rival operator Shearings rebooked scores of Travelscope customers on its tours while the Co-operative Travel staff helped out affected customers. It had a “few hundred” consumers booked.

The only trip currently going ahead is a three-month world cruise on the MV Van Gogh, which Travelscope chartered and had 460 passengers booked on. It departs on January 4 thanks to a deal with ABTA and Club Cruise.

An ABTA spokesman said: “It is unusual for us to guarantee a trip but it was the most sensible option and for many holidaymakers it was the trip of a lifetime.”

Other passengers can claim refunds. All bookings are protected through ABTA or under the ATOL financial protection scheme.

Meanwhile, 182 of Travelscope’s staff were made redundant on December 28, and 53 staff remain in head office.

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