Police are seeking a travel agent for questioning after a number of clients claimed to have been duped and left seriously out of pocket.
Detectives have launched an investigation into Kilmore Travel and Cruise Centre director Leesa Maxfield, the Melbourne Herald Sun reported. The agency closed its doors last week and Maxfield is accused of mishandling bookings.
The town of Kilmore is located 60 kilometres north of Melbourne. Residents grew suspicious when the agency didn’t open.
A large group of Country Fire Authority (CFA) volunteers from the nearby town of Wallan alerted local police, the paper reported, out of concern over a coming trip they had booked. They had been planning a Thailand trip with family and friends next week, departing 14 July 2015, but when they tried to confirm their booking they found the travel agency closed.
The 64 CFA volunteers each paid up to AUD 1560 (about AUD 95,000 all up) for a seven or 11-night trip – only to discover their accommodation was never booked and flights were booked but not paid for, the paper reported.
Kilmore police spokesman Sergeant Steve Raynor told the paper that inquiries were continuing, adding that “there are a lot of disgruntled people”.
Shocked consumers told the paper how they had lost their holidays. Radio Station 3AW broadcast an interview with Kilmore resident Sharyn Dryden, who booked a cruise to Vanuatu with her husband through Maxfield, and paid AUD 3000.
She believes her money is lost and her trips were never booked.
The trip was to be possibly the last the couple would take, as both have medical problems, the radio station said.
“It’s devastated us….because it’s the last time we would have had a holiday,” Dryden told Nick McCallum on 3AW Drive.
Once again, a collapse is producing negative publicity for the travel agency community, in circumstances where, under the former Travel Compensation Fund (TCF) regime, consumers would have been compensated and in many cases would have been able to take their holidays as planned.
Kilmore Travel and Cruise Centre is the fourth travel agent to have collapsed in the past seven weeks, since 14 May 2015. Three of the stricken agents have been in Victoria. Two of the collapsed agents were ATAS accredited (CTS Travel Service of Altona Meadows and Travel Rockhampton).
Kilmore Travel and Cruise Centre was apparently not an AFTA member. It was reported in August 2013 to have joined the Travellers Choice group, though the agency is not listed on the group’s website now.
Travellers Choice announced in June 2015 that it had become the first independent retail network in Australia to have 100% of its members ATAS accredited.
Written by Peter Needham