An estimated seventy-thousand travellers could face cancellation or holiday disruption after travel agency Kiss Flights announced it would cease operations. The firm is one of Britain’s biggest fare and holiday comparison companies, employing several hundred employees and holding accounts for tens-of-thousands of British holidayers, many of whom are currently stuck overseas.
It’s the third bankruptcy of its type this month, with rival travel firm Sun 4 U announcing the end of its consumer travel operations just over a week ago. Both companies have encountered problems in managing cash flow, despite the influx of bookings due to Britain’s peak tourism season. Those with bookings made through Kiss are advised to contact airlines and hotels within the next two days.
While the end of trading is consistent with industry trends, it’s certainly an unusual case. Just under one year ago the company had reported strong financial results, with the first-quarter report posting an operating profit of almost £500,000. Travel industry experts have declared the collapse a failure of strategy, claiming that online bookings have cut into the firm’s profit margin over the last year.
Many of the affected holidayers have experienced this situation before, as Kiss operates using many of the same service providers as now-bust rival Goldtrail. For an unfortunate few, the closure could mean a second holiday cancellation. The majority of travelling families will be covered under credit card insurance programs, although those that spread payments may not receive a complete refund.
The closure of Britain’s leading holiday firms is likely to hurt the sector’s marketability, as travellers lose faith in major operations and take up travel planning independently. Statistics show an increase in the number of Britons booking their holidays without the assistance of a travel firm – almost 90% of holidays were booked through an agent in 1998, compared to just 45% over the last six months.