Banks blamed as travel agency forced to close

THE head of the Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) has blamed the banks for the collapse of a well-known travel agency.

ITAA president Pat Dawson said Cork-based Foreign A Fares was forced to close because the banks tightened credit lines to the firm, resulting in the loss of seven jobs.

“These are the real victims,” Mr Dawson said.

“This was a viable business. People will go over their credit limits in these times and some leeway has to be given.

“The recession might be over in the eyes of the world economy but retail businesses, not just the travel business, are on their knees,” he said.

“It’s one thing for the Government to be telling the banks to put money into small businesses, but I wouldn’t believe it until I see it in my hands. The banks are supposed to mind customers. They seem to have forgotten that we are their customers. They must do more to help us get through this.”

The Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR) confirmed yesterday that Paula Coughlan, trading as Foreign A Fares, with offices at Paul Street Shopping Centre, Cork, Carrigaline Shopping Centre, and Cobh, ceased trading on Thursday.

The company, which was bonded with CAR and had a licence until April 2011, has passed all of its files to the commission.

It has advised Foreign A Fares customers who have only paid a deposit on a booking to contact Lee Travel, which has agreed to take over these bookings.

All other customers have been advised to contact the relevant airline, ferry company or travel provider to establish the status of their booking and make alternative arrangements, if necessary.

“Any customers who purchased overseas travel from the company during the period in which it held a license, and who wish to claim a refund from the bond held by the Commission for Aviation Regulation for any money that had not been passed onto the travel providers/suppliers may do so by submitting a claim,” the commission said.

CAR said it will post further information on its website as it becomes available.

Ms Coughlan was not contactable yesterday. Calls to the company’s branches went unanswered.

However, a post on the company’s Facebook page said: “It is with great sadness that we must announce that we have ceased trading.

“We would like to sincerely thank all of our many regular clients for the last 15 years.

“We will continue to work with the Commission for Aviation Regulation to assist in any way possible with the claims process. Sincere thanks for your understanding.”

George R Barter, managing director of the J Barter Travel Group, said he was surprised to learn of the closure.

“Unfortunately, this company is reflecting the very difficult trading conditions that pertain in the market.

“Everybody in this industry knows how difficult business has been with lack of finance, as well as the extremely harsh market conditions. Our thoughts are with Paula and her staff at this time,” he said.

Foreign A Fares was established in November 1995 and opened its first office in the Paul Street Shopping Centre.

It opened a second branch in Carrigaline in 2003, and its Cobh branch in 2009.

It specialised in weddings, honeymoons, golf and group trips.

- Contact Lee Travel Ltd, 24 Princes Street, Cork. Tel: 021-427 7111

- Claims can be made using the Commission for Aviation Regulation’s website www.aviationreg.ie or by phoning them on 01-6611700 or email: info@aviationreg.ie


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