INTERVIEW & SCOOP: Wicked Travel and Indie Travel bite the dust
UPDATED (12:30 16 May 2017). Consumers need to know: “In 2014 the Australian travel industry became deregulated as the Travel Compensation Fund (TCF) was abolished, backed by industry and government. The TCF had ensured consumers were compensated when travel agents went broke, but under new rules travel agents no longer have to be licensed.
It means consumers can be left stranded and out of pocket if a travel agent goes bust. There’s now only the voluntary Australian Travel Accreditation Scheme (ATAS), run by the peak body Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA), which vets travel agents to make sure they meet certain standards such as being reliable and properly trained.
To our knowledge no self-branded ‘backpacker travel agent’ is a member of AFTA or has ATAS accreditation. Any Greyhound Wicked Travel customer who feels aggrieved or out of pocket they should first contact the operator relating to the vouchers and second the store they purchased their travel from. It is our understanding that in some cases vouchers are being honoured.
UPDATED (17:00 10 May 2017). The Byte has been in direct contact with the liquidators of Wicked Travel – William Buck Chartered Accountants, they have advised the following regarding the outcome of the creditor’s meeting earlier today:
‘I confirm that the meetings of creditors have been completed. I note that a number of issues were discussed at the meeting, the following is a summary for your reference:
1. Investigations into the pre-appointment affairs of the companies are ongoing, we are currently waiting on delivery of books and records to assist in same.
2. We can confirm that a contract was entered into on 29 April 2017 prior to our appointment with Greyhound Australia which involved a sale of assets and transfer of a number of employees. The sale is still being investigated to determine whether it was commercial.
3. The sale resulted in losses crystallising in the companies, thus my appointment followed.
4. William Buck had no involvement in the contract negotiations.
5. A report to creditors will be prepared and issued once our investigations are finalised.’
UPDATED (16:00 3 May 2017). Today The Byte spoke exclusively to Justin Crux, ex-Sales & Recruitment Manager from Wicked Travel Pty Ltd.
The Byte: What is the inside story Justin? What happened this week?
Justin: The store management at Wicked Travel received a call from their area manager on Saturday morning instructing them to close their store immediately and put a notice up. They then received a call from Greyhound Australia offering them a contract with a new company (reportedly Greyhound Travel Pty Ltd). No visa transfers (ie 457s were being offered). They then received a third call from Jason Arthurton (owner of Wicked Travel) confirming that the company was being liquidated and finally a call from the Liquidator (William Buck) advising staff that there was no money for outstanding pay, no holiday pay and no contributions to superannuation.
The Byte: So why are you unhappy Justin?
Justin: “Wicked Travel owe me over $10,000 in unpaid wages, holiday pay and superannuation. My superannuation has not been paid since November 2016. I’m also one of those on a 457 so also have no job”.
The Byte: How many staff are out of pocket?
Justin: “There were 40-50 staff at Wicked Travel, Indie Travel and Greyhound Wicked Travel, most were casual and are not owed holiday pay, all will be owed unpaid wages and superannuation. About half were with CommBank Super and that’s up to date, but the other half (like me) are with REST Super and those employer contributions have not been paid regularly”.
The Byte: How many stores are affected and how many will reopen as Greyhound Travel?
Justin: “All the Wicked and Indie Travel stores are currently closed, Greyhound are taking up leases on many as we speak. Cairns x2, Airlie x1, Surfers Paradise x1, Byron Bay x3, Sydney x4 are expecting to reopen under the new brand shortly. It just depends how many existing staff sign new contracts. Wicked Travel Kings Cross, Wicked Travel Cairns and two Indie stores are all remaining closed”.
The Byte: So what is happening to Palace Adventures (accommodation and 4WD company)?
Justin: “I understand both have been sold by Jason Arthurton, prior to the liquidation, to Greyhound Australia.”
The Byte: Well we know all the staff are out of pocket to the tune of $10,000’s including you, what about trade, what about suppliers?
Justin: “I’ve heard that Whitsunday operators alone were owed $500,000 before the weekend, by some estimates one could multiply that by 4-5 times nationally. Many camper companies had us on deposit only and some trade operators had ceased working with us recently.”
The Byte: So when do you expect ‘Greyhound Travel’ to start trading?
Justin: “So long as they contract the staff available it could be as early as next week. They really only need change some branding and switch over the EFTPOS machines and its systems go. Of course contracts with suppliers will need to be negotiated.”
The Byte: Ok Justin, thanks for your time and thanks for the insights. Good luck with your own new role pursuits and we hope you can find an alternative sponsor for your visa.
It begs the question, given Greyhound Australia were the second call that Wicked staff received ‘how much time have they had to consider their options? How much notice did Wicked directors give them vs staff and trade? How much money is outstanding to suppliers? What has happened to the proceeds of the Palace Adventures sale and were Wicked Travel, Indie Travel and Greyhound Wicked Travel ever trading while insolvent? We’d better leave that to the Liquidators and the trade suppliers who have been left out of pocket.
Are you out of pocket? Do you have any questions for Greyhound management or the Wicked Travel director? Have your say here.
Justin Crux was interviewed by Chris Harrison
Balance of article posted on Tuesday 2 May, 2017 follows now.
Well I guess it was only a matter of time, but it’s finally happened. Members of Wicked Travel Pty Ltd and associated businesses (Indie Travel Pty Ltd and Out of Bounds Backpacker Travel Pty Ltd) have resolved that the Company be wound up and a Liquidator appointed. Wicked Travel shops, Indie Travel shops and Greyhound Wicked Travel branded shops have all closed and they are no longer trading. A sign on one window states “Under new management — Re-opening soon”. We will have to wait and see!
What does this mean for businesses who worked with them?
With the appointment of Liquidators the assets are realised for the benefit of all creditors in order of priority (secured creditors, employees and ATO get their money before others). They look at all the assets and liabilities of the company/s and work out who gets paid what. The Liquidators get paid first, then any secured creditors, employee entitlements next (pay/super), then banks and the ATO, and finally (if there is anything left) all the unsecured creditors are paid last. This basically means all the tourism industry companies who were owed money (think tour operators!!).
I can remember over the past 20 years, BTC, then Student Uni Travel, Adventure Travel Bugs and more recently Tribal Travel are travel agents in our sector who have all gone this way. Some of these have been resurrected (SUT now trades within BWT stores). In all circumstances people lost jobs and tour operators lost money, some a great deal of money.
So what are we left with? Primarily chains of travel agents all powered by Website Travel and to a lesser extent Hero Travel, and some small independents. This may not be ideal for some operators, but at least you get paid!! One of the great assets of these two companies is being paid within 14 days. What better way to manage cashflow? Simply factor in your percentage to pay for the privilege and away you go.
Will Greyhound buy the shops they need and continue to operate? We can only speculate. As we can also speculate whether this is simply a clever ruse by the Wicked Travel directors to close the companies, walk away from the debts and reinvent themselves under a different trading name. If this is a ‘Phoenix’ operation, then recent laws have been tightened to prevent this from happening. We will wait and see.
If you are a company caught out by Wicked Travel, Indie Travel, Greyhound/Wicked then find and contact the liquidators.
And why did Wicked Travel close? again one can speculate or even better investigate. After all online presence and online reviews are so important these days and even now customer service and customer experience is KING!
TripAdvisor reviews, product fine, agent not so fine.
Written by Mike Barrow