Oasis Overland has become the third Aito specialist to cease trading owing to the Covid crisis and, the association said, the lack of sector-specific government support for travel.
The business, founded in 1998, confirmed on Wednesday (17 February) its directors were taking steps to place the company in liquidation. All forward bookings have been cancelled.
"The coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on the whole of the travel industry," said operator in a message posted on its website, attributed to the whole Oasis team.
"During this challenging time, Oasis Overland has been unable to operate any trips and has had to make some very tough decisions, including redundancies of loyal, long-serving staff and cutting costs wherever possible.
"After 11 months, our resources [are] severely depleted with no income and the future looking very bleak, particularly after recent UK government advice and the prospect of not being able to ‘overland’ through Africa, South America or Asia for many months."
Oasis specialised in small-group expeditions by truck across a number of overland destinations, and also ran hotel-based trips to Pakistan, Bolivia, Peru and south-east Asia. It had just launched a new 93-day trip through Africa from Nairobi to Johannesburg when the government’s latest restrictions on travel to Africa came into effect.
Aito executive director Martyn Sumners said: “Chris Wrede and his team had been in business since 1998 – more than 22 years – and joined Aito in 2008, just over 12 years ago. He was a valued member of the Aito family and will be much missed.
“Chris and his team were hugely committed to responsible tourism, delivering positive benefits to local communities through travel and ensuring that any negatives were minimised."
Wrede and co-director Jonathan Bryan said: “We are devastated to be unable to continue to trade. The past 11 months have been extremely tough and the outlook is very bleak for our type of adventure until the world is clear of Covid-19.
"We are very sorry that we could not deliver our adventures as promised, and our thoughts go out to all our clients, loyal UK staff, leaders, drivers and the many local people and businesses around the world that were the bedrock of our adventures.”
Customers who booked by credit or debit card are advised to make a claim with their credit card company or debit card-issuing bank. Letters to support these claims will be available from the Abtot website shortly, said Oasis.
Oasis Overland’s failure follows that of London-based adventure specialist Tucan Travel earlier this month, and Cheltenham-based city breaks specialist Cities Direct in September last year.
Sumners added: “It is notable that three Aito specialists have now ceased trading in just the past 12 months due to the pandemic and the lack of sector-specific support from government.
"This compares with just five Aito members ceasing to trade in the 45 years since Aito was established in 1976.”
The full message from the Oasis team read:
"The coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on the whole of the travel industry. During this challenging time Oasis Overland have been unable to operate any trips and have had to make some very tough decisions, including redundancies of loyal, long serving staff and cutting costs where ever possible. After 11 months, our resources severely depleted, with no income and the future looking very bleak particularly after recent UK government advice and the prospect of not being able to ‘overland’ through Africa, South America or Asia for many months we have made the decision to cease trading.
"Our thoughts are very much with our loyal ground crew around the world, many of whom will struggle to find work in this current pandemic. Our thoughts and appreciation also go to our many hundreds of travellers. Thank you to those who were patient and agreed to transfer trips to future dates. We are sorry that we could not ultimately deliver your trips which your patience and understanding deserved.
"We would also like to thank and show our appreciation for our many local partners in Africa, Asia and South America with whom we have built strong relationships and indeed friendships over many years. Since we operated our first overland trip in April 1998 from Istanbul to Cairo the successful relationships, we have built with so many small businesses and families around the world has been the bedrock on which our success often relied over the past 23 years.
"No one could have predicted that in February 2021, most countries in the world would be in further various stages of lockdowns with many millions of people losing their lives and loved ones. It is now looking quite possible that long-haul travel for leisure purposes may not happen until autumn 2021 or even into 2022. Although the toughest decision of our lives, the decision to close the business was taken in the best interests of everyone concerned. I would like to thank our many thousands of past travellers, suppliers and staff for their support over the years and our fervent hope is that you all get to enjoy and benefit from safe and unfettered adventure travel in the future.
"Best wishes, the team at Oasis Overland."