Overlanding specialist Dragoman has confirmed it will enter a period of dormancy with immediate effect "until the resumption of long-haul travel is feasible again".
The Aito operator has cancelled all current bookings and will refund customers, suspend its operations and shut down its HQ, while vowing to return when the global travel landscape improves.
"This has been a very tough decision to take," said director Charlie Hopkinson. "We thought back in 2020 a chink of light meant we’d soon be overlanding again, albeit perhaps to countries closer to home than the norm.
"But we are now 16 months into the pandemic, and long-haul travel in the way that Dragoman has operated for the past 40 years is, sadly, unlikely to be possible in the short to medium term. We have got to batten down the hatches and to sit it out as best we can, much as we hate the idea of doing so.
"No new bookings will be taken until we see light at the end of the tunnel and feel confident that we can restart our operations. There is no alternative but to shut up shop until the world’s borders are once again open to travel."
Hopkinson paid tribute to the firm’s loyal customers, its in-house road crew, expedition leaders, engineers, reservations team and admin staff, as well as agent partners in the UK and beyond.
He called for patience from customers, and urged them not to seek to reclaim funds via credit legislation. "This will take a great deal of time and effort on your part and it also means that we will be unable to refund you ourselves," he said, adding the firm’s "small skeleton team" would contact people in departure date order.
"This is not the end," added Hopkinson. "The decision to pause is to ensure that Dragoman can – and will – live on in the future. We’ve carried 77,000 passengers around the world during the past 40 years, about which we are rightly proud.
"Thank you one and all - our travellers, our crew, our staff, our agency partners and our overseas suppliers - for your passion, loyalty, understanding and support. Dragoman is what it is because of you, one and all.
"Again, this is not the end. Dragoman will return once the situation worldwide allows such a step. While we don’t know yet how long that will be, once things are clearer we will be in touch with all concerned to let them know."