Student travel firm STA Travel UK has ceased trading, claiming it was left with “no choice” following the impact of the coronavirus crisis on tourism.
The travel agency, which specialises in package tours for backpackers and young people, has more than 50 stores across the UK.
STA Travel UK said in a statement on Friday that while it had taken measures to mitigate the impact of Covid-19, sales had not picked up due to “consumer uncertainties, further restrictions and renewed lockdown measures”.
It comes after STA Travel Holdings AG, the travel firm’s Swiss parent company, filed for insolvency earlier this week.
Abta, which represents tour operators and travel agents, said the news would send a “shockwave” through the tourism industry, which has taken a hit during the pandemic.
“The global impact of the coronavirus pandemic has brought the travel industry to a standstill,” a statement by STA Travel UK said.
“Over recent months, we have taken decisive measures to secure the business beyond Covid-19.
“However, sales have not picked up as anticipated due to consumer uncertainties, further restrictions and renewed lockdown measures, which are expected to largely continue into 2021.
“This week, it was announced that STA Travel’s Swiss parent company, STA Travel Holdings AG, had filed for insolvency.
“Today, as a result of that decision, and upon reviewing the UK business, we have been left with no choice but to cease trading with immediate effect.”
A separate statement posted on the firm’s website reassured customers that those with bookings would receive information in the coming days.
“Due to the recent announcement that STA Travel UK has ceased trading, unfortunately our travel experts are unable to assist you at this time,” it said.
“Please be assured that if you had a previous booking with us, or hold a live booking, you will receive further communication in the coming days.
“We are sorry for the inconvenience and the limited information available to you at this time.”
Andrew McConnell, spokesman for Atol, acknowledged it would be a cause for concern for anyone who had booked through the company or had their plans cancelled.
“It is a sad day for the industry when a long established business like STA Travel Ltd ceases trading, especially one that many may be used to seeing in their towns and on their high streets,” he said.
Arrangements are being made for Atol protected customers to continue their holiday and return home as normal, or make a claim if they were due to travel, he added.
An Abta spokeswoman said: “The news that STA Travel Limited, which was a long-standing Abta member, has ceased trading will send a shockwave through the industry, bringing to life the very real pressures that travel is under at the moment.
“STA Travel will be a name that is familiar to most people who will have used them to travel or been aware of their name on the high street, and this distressing news will sadly affect the livelihoods of hundreds of employees.”
Rory Boland, Which? travel editor, said: “Most STA Travel UK customers have found it impossible to get refunds in recent months for cancelled package holidays, often for very significant sums of money.
“Anyone with a booking, still waiting for a refund, or those holding a refund credit note, will be able to get their money back through the CAA’s Atol scheme.
“Flight-only tickets booked with STA should still be valid. Passengers should contact their airline to check.”