Agency founder Sam Smith has spoken of the decision to close the 21-year old business after clients were prevented from travelling to South Africa for the British & Irish Lions rugby tour.
Sam Smith Travel, based in Cowbridge, South Wales, ceased trading as an Atol holder earlier this week. As well as a high street agency, the company also operated several specialist tour operators, including Strachan Sports Travel, which organised trips to see the Lions.
Sam Smith, who has been working in the travel industry for more than 50 years, told TTG the decision to put the company into voluntary liquidation was taken partly because of the impact of Covid-19 but also because of the South African government’s decision not to allow clients to follow the Lions rugby team this summer.
“We had a big programme with the British and Irish Lions and had the potential of a fairly large amount of money coming in,” explained Smith. “But the South African government would not allow the supporters to go.”
The company, which also holds an Abta bond, had around 145 people due to travel to South Africa for the Lions tour who will now be refunded through the Atol scheme.
Smith stressed they had enough “money in the bank to pay off creditors and commitments”, while clients’ holidays booked through the agency were “protected” through other tour operators.
“We have paid off every possible creditor we can think of,” he added. “But because of our sports clients we made the decision to go into liquidation. There was no other course of action and it was a unanimous decision.
“It’s an honourable business and, in my view, we have done things in the right way. We have a very loyal upmarket client base who are very sad we’re going but all their holidays are safe.
“We wanted to make certain that every client was protected, that’s why we made the decision. We’ve not gone bankrupt or bust, we’re just dissolving the company.”
Smith said the company “had been doing good business” before the pandemic with revenue of £3 million per year.
He added that he hoped the agency could still “rise like a phoenix from the ashes” under a new owner who could keep on the three current members of staff.
Smith also said that he was unlikely to continue in the industry as he would be 79 later this year and had been working in travel since 1965.