Shearings Holidays owner Specialist Leisure Group has entered into administration after failing to secure a rescue deal.

As well as 117-year-old Shearings, Specialist Leisure Group was behind agency Wallace Arnold Travel, National Holidays, UKBreakaways, Caledonian Travel ,, Bay Hotels, Coast & Country Hotels and Country Living Hotels.

There were only a “small number” of customers booked on overseas package holidays, the Civil Aviation Authority said.

However, the company had more than 64,000 bookings – the majority coach package holidays – Abta said, confirming they would be financially protected with customers due a full refund.

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The Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) confirmed: “Customers who booked coach package tours with Shearings are protected by the government-approved consumer protection scheme Bonded Coach Holidays (BCH).

“They will be contacted by the administrator who will inform them of how to make a claim.”


A statement posted on the company’s website this evening said: “The Specialist Leisure Group entered administration on May 22, 2020.

“All tours, cruises, holidays and hotel breaks booked with the Specialist Leisure Group have been cancelled and will not be rescheduled.”

Chief executive Richard Calvert said: “This is a terribly sad day for employees, customers and commercial partners of the Specialist Leisure Group (SLG) and its subsidiaries which have entered into Administration.

“The effects of Covid-19 on our 117-year old company and the wider travel industry have been devastating.

“In the most trying of circumstances, over these past few months, we have fought tooth and nail to save the Group and the jobs of our 2,400 loyal employees serving over 1.1m customers annually.

“It is heart-breaking that the required funding or investment could not be secured to get us through this unprecedented crisis in order to save SLG to and our amazing travel brands.”

SLG confirmed last month that it was in discussions with stakeholders, advisors and the government “to weather the storm of Covid-19”.

Reports at the time said the majority of Shearings’ employees were currently furloughed and said 2,600 jobs would be at risk should the company fall into administration. It had put a pause on new bookings before entering administration.

Shearings Holidays was the UK’s largest escorted tour operator and traced its roots to 1903 when Smiths Happiways was established in Wigan.

It offered holidays to 170 destinations in the UK, Europe and Worldwide, including coach tours, rail holidays and river cruises.

Main stakeholder Lone Star Funds took control of Shearings in 2016, and the company rebranded as Specialist Leisure Group in 2018.

Shearings and Wallace Arnold were both members of Abta. Bookings with Wallace Arnold Travel, which acted as an agent for other suppliers, will go ahead as normal except where bookings have been made with other companies within the Specialist Leisure Group.

John de Vial, director of membership and financial services at Abta, said: “The Specialist Leisure Group included two of the UK’s best known coach holiday brands, Shearings and National Holidays, two much loved holiday companies who for many years have provided holidays both at home and overseas to a very loyal group of customers.

“Today is a very sad day for these customers and the thousands of staff who will have lost their jobs.

“The fact that two such well-known brands with a loyal customer base have had to call in administrators is a stark indication of the pressure that the holiday industry is under as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Abta has repeatedly highlighted to the government the urgency of the situation and the need to set out a coordinated strategy with clearer communication if it wants to help avoid significant job losses and support companies to weather the storm.”

Atol spokesman Andrew McConnell said: “This is a particularly sad day for customers and employees of Shearings Holidays Ltd, a longstanding business and well known UK travel company.

“The company specialised in coach packages and other types of holiday bookings, however there are a small number of consumers with flight-inclusive packages, which will be ATOL protected. For these bookings, we will be contacting consumers directly or via their agent to provide guidance and support.”

National Holidays and UK Breakaways were members of the CPT, which confirmed affected customers would be due a full refund. 

CPT chief executive Graham Vidler said: “This is a sad day for all those involved with Shearings and the wider coach tourism industry, our immediate thoughts are with those employees who now face an uncertain future.

“Today’s events show the need for the government to urgently step in and provide support to the wider coach tourism industry, during the Covid-19 pandemic, which has been lacking to date.”

Shearings: Advice for customers

Customers with forward bookings for Shearings Holidays, National Holidays trading as Caledonian and Travel Style, UK Breakaways and Shearings Hotels trading as Bay Hotels and Coach and Country Hotels should click here and follow the instructions on how to progress a claim.

For customers with an Atol certificate, customers should click here to start the refund process.

Shearings: A brief history

1919: Shearings is founded in Oldham in 1919 by Herbert Shearing, although the roots of the business can be traced back to a haulage company called Webster Bros, founded in 1903, and a coach tours operation set up by James Smith in 1914 that offered trips from Wigan and Southport

1949: Herbert Shearing retires and two companies are formed: Shearings Tours (Manchester) Ltd and Shearings Tours (Oldham) Ltd. These are sold to James Robinson, owner of Happiway Tours, in 1953

1963: Shearings Tours are consolidated as Shearings Holidays

1964: The business is sold again and the coaches branded as Shearings-Pleasureways-Ribblesdale, shortened to Shearings Ribblesdale in 1979 and then to Shearings Holidays in 1982

1989: Mecca Leisure Group purchases Pleasurama and merges National Holidays with Shearings

1990: Mecca is taken over by The Rank Organisation, which sells Shearings Holidays to a management buyout in 1996, backed by Bridgepoint Capital

2005: Venture capital firm 3i, which owns travel agency Wallace Arnold, purchases a controlling stake in Shearings

2013: Shearings’ passenger numbers grow to a then-record 1.05 million, with sales of £195m and a profit before tax of £5.8m

2014: 3i and Indigo Capital sell the business for an undisclosed figure to a management team led by chief executive Denis Wormwell

2016: US investment company Lone Star Funds buys Shearings for an undisclosed sum

2017: Richard Calvert is appointed chief executive;
Shearings reports fourth successive year of record sales, profits and passenger numbers; Jane Atkins is appointed managing director of Shearings Holidays;
commercial director Caroline Brown leaves after 20 years with the business

2018: Shearings Leisure Group, the holding company for Shearings Holidays, Coast & Country Hotels, National Holidays and other brands, renames as Specialist Leisure Group

May 2020: Specialist Leisure Group goes into administration