Big Four professional services firm EY has been appointed as administrator for Specialist Leisure Group. The Wigan headquartered company is the latest in a growing number of travel firms to succumb to the pressures of the coronavirus lock-down.
Businesses centring on travel and hospitality have endured a nightmare start to 2020. With the global outbreak of coronavirus, and the international lock-down ushered in to slow its spread, every aspect of the leisure sector has been battered by Covid-19-related headwinds.
In the airline segment for example, 700 of Lufthansa’s fleet of 760 planes have been grounded amid the coronavirus lock-down, with the number of passengers falling by 99%. Meanwhile, UK hotels have been ordered to close their doors to new guests – leaving many already struggling companies with no choice but to appoint administrators.
Headquartered in Wigan Specialist Leisure Group offers escorted coach tours, short breaks, events and river cruises throughout the UK, Europe and worldwide for the over 50s. The company employs over 2,400 people across its 44 UK hotels and travel brands. Amid the current pandemic, the group, which operates – Shearings Holidays, National Holidays (trading as Caledonian Travel), UK Breakaways, Coast & Country Hotels, Bay Hotels, Country Living Hotels, and Wallace Arnold Travel – has ceased trading immediately.
Bay Hotels, Coast & Country Hotels and Country Living Hotels will not reopen, while all tours, holidays and hotel breaks booked with the Specialist Leisure Group have been cancelled and will not be rescheduled. Consultants from EY have been installed as joint administrators at the firm, and will now look to options for the group, including a sale of its assets.
Sam Woodward, EY Partner and joint administrator, said, “The group has been significantly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic as all tours, trips and events have been cancelled and the hotels closed to the public, leading to a significant cash shortfall. The directors of the group have been in discussions with a number of parties, seeking a going concern buyer for the business. Unfortunately, despite interest in the group as a whole and in parts, no viable transaction structure was able to be agreed and, as a result, the group was placed into administration.”
As the administration gets under way, 2,460 employees – 2,207 of which were furloughed at the time of EY’s appointment – will be made redundant. Only around 70 employees will remain, for a brief spell at least, as they work to assist the administrators in disposing of the assets and winding down the business. Customers left out of pocket by the news are meanwhile expected to have financial protection from one of the Confederation of Passenger Transport, Bonded Coach Holidays, ATOL or ABTA, or through their credit or debit card issuer.