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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

Sources: TripAdvisor, Product Review

 





19 Responses

  1. Chris says:

    Good riddance.

    Jason Arthurton was a scoundrel. Purely sales driven, didn’t care an ounce about the customers or operators.

    I feel sorry for the staff who have lost money and sponsorship and I feel very sorry for the backpackers who are being told their tickets are no longer valid and companies won’t accept them on their tours.

    As for the operators owed money, well as the saying goes, if you lie down with dogs, you’ll wake up with fleas. You’d have to be very naive to not know what this man and his company was like, if you took his bookings then it’s money over morals.

    I refused to work with this man many years ago. Shame others didn’t.

    • Fool says:

      Chris have a think. Jason is a good man
      who has made many wealthy by his business.
      Pity this has happened.

      • justin says:

        you are a fool. he has only made himself money. Can you not read? He has left debt everywhere

      • Dave says:

        Made himself wealthy definitely, I doubt he’s feeling too hard done by with his nice house in Byron Bay and top of the line Range Rover.

        Made others wealthy, a few, possibly, I’m sure Craig Ross did ok from all those Pride of Airlie booking they were pumping out, same goes for Frazer at Oz Sail, these products were only booked due to Wickeds sales techniques, read the reviews, no-one would choose themselves to go on those trips, I doubt any bookings were made directly due to word of mouth recommendations. Sales driven by Wicked and Indie purely based on very high commissions paid.

        I’m sure the owner of the Palace tour that all his staff were made to book people on as a priority got made a little wealthy from all those bookings, oh wait that was Jason.

        Skydives, reef cruises, bus tickets, campervans and the like, I’m sure all these things would have been booked by the customer (possibly directly) if Mr Arthurton wasn’t around and I’m sure these operators would not have gone hungry.

        In regards to ‘good man’, well just mention that name to anybody in the industry and see what they say. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jason wrote that comment himself, if it was you Jason, I would simply ask yourself one question: How many Christmas cards did I receive from people within the backpacker industry last year? I’m sure you’ll find the answers to how good a man and how grateful people were of your company there.

  2. Sam says:

    We stopped dealing with Wicked Travel about 4 years ago as they were simply not paying us for tours they booked despite taking full payment from their guests. I’ve always warned my tour guests about dealing with them as I have heard countless horror stories. Sadly, the owners have probably walked away all cashed up leaving a trail of debt and debris to ex-staff and tour operators. I’ll now be warning guests about dealing with Greyhound as they must have known about their practices and are just as responsible. Karma will get them in the end.

    • anon says:

      Attention Sam:

      “We stopped dealing with Wicked Travel ” haha as I remember correctly we pulled you from our system, for being a whiny bitch “I’ve always warned my tour guests about dealing with them ” sounds like you held a bit of a jealous grudge, I’m laughing all the way to the bank mate, you think I ever needed a little insignificant tour such as yours anyway. I’m quids in mate $$$$$

  3. Sticker says:

    Bad bad company.. good riddance but feel for the suppliers take down.
    Greyhound aligning themselves with them in the first place made greyhound look very silly indeed. They must be the worst backpacker travel agent in Australia with no ethics or thought of the tourism industry.i am not surprised that they have gone under but fancy greyhound actually being a part of this through and through…

    Greyhound I hope you close the doors on the shops and stop playing agent. Do what you do best…taking passengers feomA toB before agents stop supporting you in your quest to take out the agents that have supported you to get you where you are.

  4. Greg says:

    We’re not affected but feel sorry for the staff and operators who have lost money – particularly the Whitsundays guys who’ve just copped a cyclone and now an agent collapse, hopefully the only way is up for them now.

  5. Lisa says:

    I find it hard to drum up any sympathy for Justin. He worked for the company for many years. I wonder how many times he booked people on sub-standard products like the Pride of Airlie knowing how bad the trips was, how many times did he tell a backpacker “there’s only two spots left” or “you need to leave $100 to guarantee this price today”, how many times did he make out the free Noosa canoe trip was worth actual money even though anyone can go there and do it for free.

    Not only this as he states he was a ‘sales and recruitment manager’ so no doubt he was well aware of the emphasis this company had on being sales rather than service driven.

    It looks to me like a little bit of Karma has cone round for Justin

  6. Questions? says:

    Article says greyhound involved? who owns greyhound? What will they do??

  7. Anon says:

    The entire thing was a stitch up. Greyhound and Jason walk away laughing. You watch how messed up the industry is when the doors open again and operators give supply to try and recoup losses. (Hint: the backpackers will book at another agency if doors don’t reopen. Deal with only reputable ones). That business name should head straight to the grave and be a lesson for years to come for agents and operators alike. That rogue was left unchecked by a greedy industry, end of.

    The only chance of anything meaningful would be a class action as I am happy to bet a hefty sum that the mans significant personal wealth is left intact despite insolvent trading. I also bet nothing happens and he is currently sipping a cocktail laughing how he pulled off the greatest scam the industry has ever seen.

  8. Anon says:

    Jason is forgetting that a lot of angry people know where he lives haha

  9. anon says:

    So shops in Melbourne, Sydney, Byron and Cairns all reopened their doors today as Greyhound Travel.

    Official word from management:

    “Hi All,
    Any bookings made before Sat 29th April, advise customers we do not have access to that booking any longer, and can not reprint tickets or make any changes.
    Those booking remain with Wicked and Indie Travel who have liquidated.
    Cheers Craig”
    :
    I would be very interested to see who is accepting Greyhound travel bookings or is it all bus tickets and Palace tours?

    • anon says:

      I would also like to add that this e-mail was sent from craig@wickedtravel.com.au the store name at either @wickedtravel.com.au or @indietravel.com.au depending on the location.

      If these companies have gone into liquidation why are the companies e-mails still being used to send messages and rosters between staff and stores?

      Why is the area manager Craig still using his Wicked Travel e-mail to send out work instructions to staff, is this not breach of a liquidation process?

  10. Maudiemoo says:

    Good riddance to the touters with bottoms hanging out from unwashed cutaway shorts that leave nothing to the imagination – Good riddance to the so called”tour consultant” that has had no training and has no loyalty to our region or tourist industry – and wouldn’t know customer service if it smacked them over the head. And good riddance to a Rogue Trader who has ripped off Tour Operators and Staff and Innocent Travellers. Sadly this Rogue Trader is probably laughing all the way to the bank leaving an already struggling industry out of pocket. Hopefully on his way there he encounters a rabid camel with hungry fleas that find Rogues crotches particularly tantalising

    • Dave says:

      Sorry to tell you Maudiemoo that ‘Greyhound Travel’ has opened in the exact same locations employing many of the same staff that were at Wicked and Indie.

      Unless they have spent the past week conducting intensive training of said staff I guess their knowledge and loyalty levels will remain much the same.

      I know they were out the front of some of the shops touting over the weekend, although I was not informed of the levels of flesh on show!

      Considering Greyhound were happy to work alongside the Rogue Trader for a couple of years I wonder how similar in mindset they are? Is much (apart from the name) going to change?

  11. BIG BOY says:

    Wow …

    Everyone is going off like an egg in the sun.
    1. All operators knew about the stance of Wicked, deposit only was always the go.
    2. Regardless of what you think of the Wicked shops and staff, I feel sympathetic towards the staff who have lost out on living in Australia after working for them for so long on 457, only now with the new 457 legislation that they may have to go home. Say what you want about them, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone in the industry.
    3. One less agency for the whiners to worry about? Greyhound will be back …

    • LITTLE LAD says:

      Hi BIG BOY,

      Do you feel sorry for the staff who were happy to lie, spoke of ‘prices rising soon’, ‘three spaces available’, ‘costs more to book when you get there’, ‘need to leave $100 to secure the price’?

      Can you honestly drum up sympathy for people who described the Pride of Airlie as a ‘luxury catamaran staying on an ‘all inclusive resort’.

      These were not backpackers wanting to help backpackers, these were not travel agents, they were sales people with the sole focus of making sales, 100% commission focused, 0% customer service focused.

      These staff going home are cut from the same cloth as those who have jumped ship and put on a new Greyhound Wicked Travel t-shirt and continue to focus on sales, only to be distracted now and again by a phone-call or customer walking into the store asking why the $1000 package they sold them only a few weeks ago when they were wearing a different t-shirt is now null and void.

      They don’t care, they have no shame, they continue to sell, sell, sell. I’m sorry if this sounds harsh but I don’t know how you can feel sympathetic towards these people, if the 457 crew were able to transfer and stay, they would all be stood in the same stores, selling the same crap (in a different t-shirt) fobbing off those who have just lost their money.

      As per the comment above it seems that word from the top, area manager Craig is just wash your hands of it, claim it’s nothing to do with you, and keep on selling. I would even go so far as to call this Un-Australian. Are these the people we want to give visas to? Are these the people we want to stay and represent our industry?