All Leisure Holidays has ceased trading, the CAA has confirmed, writes Jennifer Morris and Sophie Griffiths
At the time of its failure, the company comprised two cruise lines, Voyages of Discovery and Swan Hellenic.
The CAA said around 400 people were currently abroad, which it was arranging to repatriate. It added that most customers would be able to use their scheduled airline tickets to return home, and that the CAA had made arrangements to bring the remaining passengers back to the UK.
Abta confirmed that All Leisure Group had around 7,000 forward bookings with 13,000 passengers affected.The association added: "Approximately a third of the future bookings are UK departing cruises that are financially protected by Abta.
"Customers who booked a flight and cruise package will be protected under the CAA Atol scheme. All customers should check on the Abta.com/allleisure or Atol websites to obtain the relevant claim form and advice on how to obtain a refund of the money they have paid for their cruise. If customers have booked through a travel agent, they should contact the agent in the first instance for assistance with their claim and help in possible rebooking."
Andy Cohen, head of Atol at the CAA, added: "We understand this will be concerning news for anyone who has booked to travel with the company. However, the Atol scheme exists for exactly this kind of situation and we are making immediate arrangements so all Atol protected customers can claim full refunds as quickly as possible.
“We are also arranging for people currently overseas to get back home to the UK at no extra cost – meaning no-one will be left stranded abroad.
“So while this situation is very disappointing for the customers affected, it is also a timely reminder of the importance of remembering to check for Atol protection when booking holidays."
The umbrella group, headed by chairman Roger Allard, made a pre-tax profit of £200,000 for the 12 months to October 21, 2015 compared with a loss of £7.2 million the previous year and when the company issued its annual results last February, it said it intended to achieve profitable growth.
However All Leisure suffered a difficult 2016, making 40 of its staff redundant last February as the group sought to make its operations more efficient.
Speculation over the firm’s future mounted this week after it emerged that bookings through All Leisure’s tour operating brands, Travelsphere and singles specialist Just You had been transferred to G Adventures’ Atol on Friday December 30.
The websites of both brands now state holidays booked by either company “will be operated by G Adventures (UK)”.
It was also announced earlier this week that a Riches of the Orient sailing onboard Voyage of Discovery’s, which had been due to start in Malaysia on today (January 4), had been cancelled along with Swan Hellenic’s Gateway to Atlantic Isles cruise, due to begin in Marseille yesterday (January 3).
The lines apologised to passengers in statements posted on their websites, citing “operational reasons” as the cause for both cancellations.
Meanwhile it also emerged that All Leisure Group sold off its Hebridean Island Cruises brand “three to four weeks ago”.
The firm, based in Market Harborough, de-listed from the Alternative Investment Market of the London Stock Exchange in June. It had agreed a “sale and leaseback” deal for Hebridean Island Cruises’ ship Hebridean Princess in November 2015, raising £3 million.
Specialist operator Discovery Egypt was sold by All Leisure as part of a management buy-out in August.