Specialist tour operator and travel agency Tucan Travel has collapsed with the loss of nine jobs.

Begbies Traynor was appointed as administrators today after the Aito-member company fell into “unprecedented financial difficulties” as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The firm is no longer accepting further bookings and customers with 850 existing bookings will not be able to travel as planned.

About 700 customers’ travel arrangements will be affected by the demise, Aito estimated.

The value of the bookings is estimated at £850,000, which will be covered by the company’s Atol and Abtot bonds. Tucan had an Atol for 1,000 sales in the quarter to March.

Tucan is expected to formally enter into administration by February 16 2021.

The company’s Australian subsidiary, Tucan Travel, has also been placed into voluntary administration.

Tucan operated group itineraries in the Americas, Asia, Africa and Europe as well as a tailor-made department, offering bespoke tours in Latin America and Asia.

Tucan Travel suspended its tour operations in March 2020 and tried throughout this difficult Covid scenario to look after both staff and customers’ needs, but has now had to admit defeat.

Gareth Prince, partner at Begbies Traynor’s Birmingham office, said: “It is always sad to see a once thriving business succumb to administration, especially when there are job losses involved.

“The travel industry has borne the brunt of the pandemic and despite taking a number of difficult decisions to mitigate the worst impacts of the crisis, the company has been unable to withstand overwhelming financial pressure.”

Tucan chief executive Matt Gannan added: “This is a truly devastating day for the business and our thoughts are with our loyal, long-serving staff who will be losing their jobs.

“We have had to make difficult decisions to keep the business operational throughout the Covid crisis, including many staff redundancies and suspending tour operations in March last year.

“But with little prospect of a return to normal international leisure travel on the horizon, the challenge has sadly proven too great and, with a heavy heart, the decision was taken to place the company into administration.”

He added: “We’ve had to make many staff redundant over the past 10 months in an effort to keep the company alive; most of them were loyal, long-serving staff with families to support. Unfortunately, this situation now extends to all staff, which is devastating.

“With clients wishing to receive immediate full refunds of money paid in advance to secure many services on their behalf, and smaller overseas hotels and service providers not having the resources to repay what is owed to tour operators until they are able to reopen their businesses and earn money again, the further tough lockdowns have forced us – with a heavy heart – to place the company into administration.

“I would like to thank all clients, suppliers and staff for their support over many years and hope that all of you get to enjoy travelling again in the future.”

Aito executive director Martyn Sumners said: “Matt Gannan had been in business for 34 years – since 1987 – and joined Aito 11 years ago. He was on Council from 2016 – coming up for five years – and was thus a director of AITO until today.

“Matt put a lot of effort into finding solutions for Aito members while he was on Council, and we shall miss his input considerably.

“Matt and his team were passionate about delivering good through travel, and the company’s long-term commitment to responsible travel was informed by the UN Sustainable Development Goals with the aim of ending poverty, reducing inequalities and tackling climate change.”