There’s an interesting interview with Roger Allard, chairman of the just-failed All Leisure Group company, in Travel Weekly.
You’d be best reading the whole interview, but I gleaned a few interesting points from it:-
- First, he apologies profusely for the closure of the business, and blames it on a ‘perfect storm’ of adverse influences;
- He’s saying that the decision to close down the business was not taken at the last possible moment but at an early stage. As a result, there is money in the bank to pay creditors and refund fares, etc, for passengers who have made bookings;
- My interpretation of his words is that it was Swan Hellenic and Voyages of Discovery that broke the company, and that this was for two reasons: a) so much of expenses for these companies are paid abroad in currencies other than GBP, and b) it wasn’t possible to increase prices (especially for existing bookings, presumably). On the first of these reasons, he points out that the drop in the value of sterling after the June referendum increased the sterling cost of expenditure in € and US$ by 14% and 20% immediately;
- It has also become harder to travel to the areas where Swan Hellenic and Voyages of Discovery have traditionally sailed due to the continuing unrest in the region. Many cruises lines have stopped making calls at Istanbul, for example;
- The other businesses, Travelsphere and Just You, were more resilient, and have found a new owner;
- And Hebridean Island Cruises, which has a predominantly UK-focused set of itineraries, has also been found to be potentially profitable and has been saved. (I’m hoping to find out more about more about that later today).
It’s always disappointing to see companies fail. There will be inquests into this one, as there always are, and I will read the outcome with interest. However, at the moment this looks like a controlled demolition rather than an out-of-control crash.
That said, I recognise that’s no consolation to passengers who have had their cruises cancelled, in some cases at just a few days’ notice, and who must be very disappointed. Given also that the Swan Hellenic and Voyages of Discovery operations were so different from the mainstream industry, it’s difficult, unfortunately, to see a like-for-like alternative for the affected passengers.