Jim Parker: Collapse of Shearings is why Torbay has to battle through this as one united voice

Torbay Hotel in Torquay Photo: Derek Harper (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Torbay Hotel in Torquay Photo: Derek Harper (cc-by-sa/2.0) - Credit: Archant

The true impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been rammed home with the utterly sad collapse of Shearings, its associated coach holiday firms and last but not least its hotels in Torbay.

My own mum used to work at the Tor Park and the Torbay and Esplanade hotels are iconic buildings in prime locations.

These comments from one worker kind of summed things up:

'Have worked for them for 18 years and was still part-time until today. I feel as if I've lost a family member. Shearings gave me my other half, my son his wife, some lifelong friends, and employment for lots of family members. four of us lost our jobs today. So many lovely dedicated people now unemployed. I'm heartbroken for us all... thank you Shearings I've loved every minute.'

If ever there was proof that seaside resorts like Torbay need special help and recognition from the Government in all this this is it.

It's just the beginning.

It's why now more than ever Torbay has to stick together with one united voice and battle through this.

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The owner of Europe's largest coach tour operator Shearings Holidays collapsed into administration yesterday (May 22).

More than 64,000 bookings have been cancelled and around 2,500 jobs lost due to the failure of Specialist Leisure Group (SLG).

Travel trade organisation Abta said the coronavirus pandemic is the main reason for its failure, as it struggled to issue thousands of refunds while new bookings ground to a halt.

Shearings Holidays was founded in 1919 but was an amalgamation of companies dating back as far as 1903.

SLG owned several travel brands, including National Holidays, Wallace Arnold Travel and Bay Hotels.

In a statement obtained by Travel Weekly, SLG chief executive Richard Calvert said: 'This is a terribly sad day for employees, customers and commercial partners of the Specialist Leisure Group and its subsidiaries which have entered into administration.

'The effects of Covid-19 on our 117-year-old company and the wider travel industry have been devastating.

'In the most trying of circumstances, over these past few months, we have fought tooth and nail to save the group and the jobs of our 2,400 loyal employees serving more than 1.1 million customers annually.

'It is heart-breaking that the required funding or investment could not be secured to get us through this unprecedented crisis in order to save SLG and our amazing travel brands.'

The vast majority of SLG's cancelled bookings were coach package holidays, which are financially protected under the Bonded Coach Holidays scheme.

Anyone with a package holiday including a flight can claim their money back through Atol, which is operated by the Civil Aviation Authority.

Customers with hotel-only bookings are advised to contact their credit or debit card provider in a bid to retrieve their money.

John de Vial, Abta's director of membership and financial services, said: 'The Specialist Leisure Group included two of the UK's best known coach holiday brands, Shearings and National Holidays, two much-loved holiday companies who for many years have provided holidays both at home and overseas to a very loyal group of customers.

'Today is a very sad day for these customers and the thousands of staff who will have lost their jobs.

'The fact that two such well-known brands with a loyal customer base have had to call in administrators is a stark indication of the pressure that the holiday industry is under as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

'Abta has repeatedly highlighted to the Government the urgency of the situation and the need to set out a coordinated strategy with clearer communication if it wants to help avoid significant job losses and support companies to weather the storm.'