Covid UK: Tour operator Tucan Travel collapses into administration

Tour operator Tucan Travel which specialised in trips to South America collapses into administration after 33 years due to Covid pandemic

  • Tour operator Tucan Travel has collapsed into administration due to Covid 
  • West London-based firm specialised in trips to South America for 33 years
  • All staff are being made redundant as it blamed ‘tough lockdowns’ for failure
  • Travel industry has been rocked by shutdowns and effects of the pandemic

Tour operators which have fallen victim to the Covid pandemic so far

  • Tucan
  • Alpine Elements
  • Horncastle Executive
  • Courtney Airsavers
  • Toucan Travel
  • BTY Ltd
  • Go Travel
  • E Thornton & Son
  • Omega Travel
  • Gendai Travel
  • Cities Direct
  • Tailor Made Travel (UK)
  • STA Travel 
  • Voyager Systems
  • Harris Holidays
  • South Quay Travel and Leisure
  • Viceroy Ltd
  • Snowchateaux Ltd
  • David Urquhart Sky Travel
  • Fleetway Travel
  • Pan Express Business Travel
  • Bargain Travel Bureau
  • Specialist Leisure Group 

Tour operator Tucan Travel has collapsed into administration as the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the travel industry.

The West London-based firm, which specialised in trips to South America, said in a statement the Covid-19 crisis has had a ‘severe impact’ on global travel.

It suspended its holidays last March as the virus seeded across Western Europe, but continue to sell trips for 2021 and beyond.

However, the 33-year-old company has ceased trading with immediate effect, telling customers with existing bookings they will be contacted with details of how they can ‘make a claim for any monies they have paid’.  

The statement claimed there has been ‘no satisfactory solution’ for coping with the number of customers demanding full refunds for cancellations. 

All staff will be made redundant as a result of its collapse, it added.

Trade organisation Abta said in October that at least 20 travel companies with UK operations had gone bust since March. These include STA Travel, Specialist Leisure Group – which ran brands such as coach operator Shearings – and Cruise & Maritime Voyages. 

A statement by Tucan said: ‘No-one could have predicted that in January 2021, most countries in the world would be in further tough lockdowns with many people losing their lives and loved ones.

‘There is unlikely to be any normal international leisure travel until 2022 and so with a heavy heart, the decision was taken in the best interests of everyone concerned to place the company into administration.’ 

It added: ‘The coronavirus pandemic has had a severe impact on many businesses in particular the travel industry. 

‘During this challenging time, tour operators like Tucan Travel have faithfully tried to support people and balance their needs. 

‘During this time we had to make difficult decisions to keep the company alive including many staff redundancies, most of whom are loyal long serving staff with families to support. 

‘Unfortunately this now extends to all staff.’

Tour operator Tucan Travel has collapsed into administration as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the travel industry. Pictured, a Tucan Travel bus in Nazca, Peru

LONDON: An empty departure area of Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5 at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic last March

Tucan Travel: The budget tour operator which first went to Colombia 30 years ago and spread its wings from Azerbaijan to Antarctica

Matt Gannan joined in 1997 and became the CEO and sole owner of Tucan Travel

Tucan Travel was founded in 1987. Matt Gannan joined in 1997 and became the CEO and sole owner of Tucan Travel.

It has operated group trips to destinations worldwide, from Azerbaijan to Antarctica, particularly specialised in South America.

Its very first trip was to Colombia, and catered for the budget end of the market, boasting a loyal clientele. 

Describing himself and the company, Mr Gannan had said: ‘I love travel, I live to travel and I employ staff that are as passionate as I am about travel.’ 

‘With client’s welfare and best interests at the forefront, Tucan Travel took the decision early in March 2020 to suspend tour operations. 

‘There has been no satisfactory solution for tour operators to be able to address the number of clients wishing to receive immediate full refunds.’ 

Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer warned that more firms could fail as he accused the government of failing to provide ‘basic tools’ to help consumer confidence.

Today, an Abta spokesperson said: ‘We were sorry to hear that Tucan Ltd was placed into administration today. 

‘This is a stark reminder of the significant challenges facing the travel industry. Travel has been affected by the pandemic for 12 months now, with travel businesses generating little or no income during this time, yet unlike other sectors, such as hospitality and the arts, the UK Government hasn’t provided any sector-specific support. 

‘The Government needs to address this as a matter of urgency, not only for the jobs and businesses at risk in the sector, but in recognition of the important role the travel industry will play in the UK’s economic recovery and achieving their vision of a Global Britain.

‘It is also important the Government engages with industry to come up with a plan for future overseas travel for when restrictions are lifted.’

It comes as Britain’s beleagured airlines were dealt another crippling blow after Prime Minister Boris Johnson banned holidays under the third national lockdown.

Yesterday the Civil Aviation Authority revealed that UK airports suffered a 76 per cent fall in traffic last year as global air travel plunged by 60 per cent.

In a statement last week, Abta warned: ‘The introduction of quarantine hotels for ‘red list countries’ builds on a mountain of existing measures for travel, and we need to see a clear plan for how these will be lifted. 

‘We understand the Government’s need to introduce temporary additional restrictions in response to emerging new strains of the virus, but this needs to come with support for the jobs and businesses affected and a clear roadmap forward for travel.

‘It is now 12 months since the travel industry started to be affected by coronavirus, yet the Government has still not provided any tailored financial support to the sector. Jobs are being lost at an alarming rate and longstanding businesses have gone to the wall. 

‘The lack of financial support targeted at addressing the consequences for businesses of international travel restrictions needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. 

The International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations agency, found passengers totals dropped by 60 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019, with the above graph showing the evolution of world passenger traffic evolution since 1945

This graphic shows the breakdown of revenue losses across the world. Airlines have suffered £270billion losses resulting from the impacts of Covid-19, with airports and air navigation services providers losing a further £84billion and £9billion

How coronavirus crushed UK airlines

Flybe: Europe’s largest regional airline collapsed on March 5 after months on the brink, triggering 2,400 job losses and left around 15,000 passengers stranded across the UK and Europe. 

British Airways: The boss of BA owner IAG demanded ministers set up airport testing after the group swung to a £5.6bn loss. The company, which also owns Aer Lingus, Iberia and Vueling, lost the equivalent of £900,000 an hour during the first nine months of 2020. 

Jet2: Reported operating losses of £111.2m for the six months to September 30, against earnings of £361.5m a year earlier.

Virgin Atlantic: In September Virgin Atlantic said it could axe a further 1,150 jobs from across the company taking the total number of job losses to 4,700 during the crisis. It also urged the Government to offer carriers emergency credit facilities worth up to £7.5billion.

Ryanair: Reported a loss of 197m euro (£178m) in the first half of 2020, with 99 per cent of it’s fleet grounded for almost four months. Traffic in the first half of the year fell from 86million to 17million passengers compared with the same period last year, and revenue dropped 78 per cent to 1.18billion euros (£1.06billion).

Easyjet: Crisis saw it crash to an annual loss of £1.27billion – the first in its 25-year history – but the prospect of a vaccine has led to a spike in sales over the past fortnight.

‘While the vaccine rollout is positive, the industry cannot wait for the whole UK adult population to be vaccinated before travel restarts – and businesses cannot afford to lose another summer.’ 

Carriers in Britain are estimated to have lost nearly £20billion last year as the Civil Aviation Authority revealed just 59.5million passengers used UK airports in 2020, which was a fall of 87 per cent from 246.9million in 2019.

The biggest percentage falls were seen at Cardiff Airport which plunged 87 per cent to 219,197, followed by Glasgow Prestwick Airport which dropped 86 per cent to 90,608 and Exeter which also fell 86 per cent to 147,921.

Other UK airports suffering falls of at least 80 per cent were Newquay, Southampton, London City, Leeds Bradford, Isle of Man and East Midlands – while Britain’s busiest airport Heathrow dived 73 per cent to 22.1million.

The plunge in air travel began in January 2020 but was only limited to a few countries in Asia, before the pandemic rapidly spread in the following weeks and brought transport activities to a virtual standstill in late March. 

It comes as Ryanair today said it is braced for ‘the most challenging year’ in its 35-year history and expects a full-year loss of nearly €1billion (£880billion) as it told how Covid-19 continues to ‘wreak havoc across the industry’.

Globally, the International Civil Aviation Organization found passengers totals dropped by 60 per cent with just 1.8billion passengers taking to the air during the first year of the pandemic, compared to 4.5billion in 2019. 

The United Nations agency found airlines have suffered £270billion losses resulting from the impacts of Covid-19, with airports and air navigation services providers losing a further £84billion and £9billion, respectively.

This included losses of £73billion in Europe, £87billion in Asia/Pacific and £64billion in North America, followed by £19billion, £16billion and £10billion in Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and Africa respectively.

The International Air Transport Association had initially predicted in April 2020 that the pandemic would bring a fall of 140million passengers in the UK resulting in a £19billion revenue loss, risking almost 661,200 jobs. 

Lockdown costs the Treasury more than £2.9BILLION in lost air passenger duty

The extent of the damage done by the coronavirus crisis to Treasury coffers was today laid bare after official data showed air passenger duty as well as income tax and VAT receipts have been hammered during the pandemic. 

Office for National Statistics numbers highlighted the devastating impact of travel restrictions as fewer air passengers meant the loss of more than £2.9billion in tax.

Overall air passenger duty receipts in 2020 were just £0.9billion – down by more than three quarters on the almost £4billion generated in 2019.  

Chancellor Rishi Sunak also saw VAT receipts fall from £11.7 billion in February 2020 to £10.1 billion in May 2020 – the worst fall recorded since the 2008 recession.  

New data published today by the Office for National Statistics showed the Treasury lost more than £2.9billion in air passenger duty because of the coronavirus pandemic

VAT receipts have also taken a hammering as the pandemic has wreaked havoc with businesses

In reality, the CAA data showed there was an even bigger fall of 187million – down from 246,934,324 to 59,511,172.

Border closures and travel restrictions saw the overall global number of passengers fall 92 per cent from 2019 levels by April, an average of a 98 per cent drop in international traffic and 87 per cent fall in domestic air travel. 

Passenger traffic saw a modest rebound during the summer but this was short lived as it began falling again in September when the second wave of Covid-19 saw increased restrictions in many parts of the world. 

The plunge during the final four months of 2020 therefore brought a double-dip recession in air travel for the year, although domestic passenger numbers in China and Russia have already returned to pre-pandemic levels.

The ICAO reported that overall there was a 50 per cent drop in domestic passenger traffic globally, while international traffic fell by 74 per cent or 1.4billion fewer passengers.

It said the near-term outlook is for ‘prolonged depressed demand’, with any improvement in the global picture only by the second quarter of 2021 – dependent on vaccination rollouts and the effectiveness of restrictions.

The ‘most optimistic scenario’ suggests that by June 2021 passenger numbers will be expected to recover to 71 per cent of their 2019 levels, but a more pessimistic scenario foresees only a 49 per cent recovery. 

Yesterday, Ryanair said it expects to lose nearly €1billion (£880billion) in its current financial year, by far its worst ever performance, but chief executive Michael O’Leary forecast a ‘dramatic recovery’ this summer on vaccine roll-outs.

The Irish low-cost airline, Europe’s largest, forecast a loss of up to €950million (£837million) in its current financial year, which ends on March 31, around five times larger than its previous record annual loss posted in 2009. 

Mr O’Leary described the year as the most challenging in Ryanair’s 35 year history. But chief financial officer Neil Sorahan said the recovery should accelerate in July and September, the second quarter of its financial year.

Mr Sorahan, who said it should return to 70 per cent and 90 per cent of normal levels between October and March, added that Ryanair hopes ‘to be getting back to some kind of normality’ during the winter.

Covid-19 restrictions slashed Ryanair passenger numbers by 78 per cent in the last three months of the year, the third quarter of its financial calendar, pushing it to a quarterly loss of €306million (£270million).

Ryanair’s 82 per cent fall in revenue in the quarter compared with falls of 88 per cent at rival easyJet and 77 per cent at Wizz, which both reported results last week.

Ryanair is widely seen as one of the best-placed airlines in the world to weather the Covid-19 crisis due to its large cash balance and lack of long-haul and business-class.

It said it had €3.5billion (£3.1billion) cash on hand at the end of December, compared with €4.5billion (£4billion) at the end of September.

It comes as industry bosses warned that the third coronavirus lockdown would further devastate the hard-hit travel sector, which has seen sales nosedive and mass layoffs. 

Overseas travel is only allowed for a handful of ‘legally permitted’ reasons such as work, putting paid to scores of vacations that have already been booked.

TUI cancelled all holidays until mid-February, while British Airways and easyJet said they were also reviewing their scheduled flights.

It means cash-strapped airlines trying to make up losses accrued during nine months of restrictions are forced to dole out refunds to dismayed passengers. 

EasyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou told MailOnline the situation ‘will only get worse.’   

Heathrow pulls shutters down on Terminal 4 as passenger numbers plummet  

Heathrow’s Terminal 4 will remain closed throughout this year as demand for air travel struggles to recover.

The west London airport made the announcement at the end of 2020 as it said passenger numbers for November were down 88per cent compared with the same month last year.

At the end of October, Heathrow lost its status as Europe’s busiest airport as it recorded a loss of £1.5billion in the first nine months of the year due to Covid-19.

Passenger numbers between July and September were down by more than 84 per cent compared with the same period in 2019, leading the west London hub to be overtaken by Paris Charles de Gaulle as the busiest in Europe. 

Just 747,000 people travelled through the airport on November.

Terminals 3 and 4 have been closed since April and May respectively, with all flights operating from Terminals 2 and 5.

The airport urged the Government to introduce full business rates relief for all UK airports and abandon its plan to scrap tax-free shopping for international visitors from January 1.  

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