The administrators of Toucan Travel which ceased trading on October 21 are hoping to sell the former Abta member and see the agency’s seven shops re-open.

Toucan Travel director Terry Thornhill called in KRE Corporate Recovery and placed the business in administration earlier this month, saying the “cash reserves had become depleted”.

He said: “The business simply could not continue to trade under current circumstances.”

But administrator Gareth Roberts told Travel Weekly: “We’ve had 14 expressions of interest from a mix of people in the trade and venture capital funds.

“By the end of this week we aim to have identified the level of serious interest and move to the next stage.”

Toucan Travel had been trading since 1982 and had seven stores in a 40-mile radius of Hampshire and Berkshire.

It had a sales turnover of almost £8 million in the 12 months to September last year, and bureau de change facilities in three stores turned over £1.6 million. Toucan’s Disney ticketing operation alone turned over in excess of £1 million last year.

Roberts described the level of interest in the business as “healthy” and said: “It doesn’t surprise me. We realise the difficulties facing the travel sector, but people are always on the look-out for opportunities.

“There is a bargain to be had when a company goes into administration and quite a few funds have not had much to invest in lately.”

He explained: “The business is not technically a going concern – the shops are shut – but it could become one.

“If you bought the assets and the keys to the shops you could start trading the following day. It’s a very resurrect-able business. I’ve told the staff to stay by the phone. It doesn’t take much to unlock the door and turn the lights on.

“We had to make 28 staff redundant and retained three to assist with queries, but we’ve said ‘Don’t go far. Fingers crossed you may get a phone call to get you back.’”

A buyer will acquire “the goodwill, the brand, the website, database, shops”, he said.

“They will pick up the leases and the forward bookings if tour operators allow them to. They don’t pick up the debt.”

Roberts said: “Toucan did not have significant debts. It had ongoing working capital requirements that meant it could not keep taking money and meet its obligations.

“The director was worried the business would get into a deeper hole with all the Covid uncertainty. He looked ahead and took a prudent view. The company did not have the cash reserves.

“So the buyer must be someone with a bit of capital to ride out the storm.”

He revealed Toucan had “about £1.5 million-worth of forward bookings”, saying: “It was all retail on behalf of tour operators, and the only bookings not paid to tour operators were those in the last two weeks.”

Roberts added: “There is no certainty of the outcome, but I’m relatively hopeful of the longer-term prospects. I hope that by summer 2021 there will be an air of normality.”

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