The first wave of Far&Wide’s 16 tour operations went to auction
late last week, as new bids came in for more pieces of the bankrupt
A number of buyers were expected to battle over six of the tour
operations at the Oct. 10 hearing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in
Miami, which was scheduled to decide the futures of High Country
Passage, Grand European Tours, Pacific Bestours, Swain Tours,
African Travel and Lion World.
This week another auction is likely to be held regarding the
proposed sale of IST Cultural Tours, Regina Tours, Journeys
Unlimited, Tourlite and Adventure Center.
Calling Far&Wide “a major financial disaster,” Bankruptcy
Court Judge Robert Mark said he would expedite sales procedures,
acknowledging that the tour operations must keep operating to
maintain their value.
With the exception of Tourlite, which company officials say will
resume operations after an approved sale, all the units under
negotiation last week had continued operations since the Sept. 24
bankruptcy at the expense of their potential buyers. It was unclear
last week whether the remaining four units Prism Holidays, Central
Holidays, Brian Moore International Tours and Spanish Heritage
Tours were operating as negotiations to find buyers for them
Meanwhile, consumers have begun to file insurance claims.
Officials at insurance company Travel Guard said an estimated 400
claims had been filed as of Oct. 7, and many more were
Far&Wide offered its own “Safe and Sound” protection plan,
but that policy did not cover financial default, said Dan
McGinnity, vice president for communications for Travel Guard, a
Wisconsin-based insurance company that administered Far&Wide’s
But third-party travel insurance, such as Travel Guard’s
“ProtectAssist” and “Cruise Tour and Travel” policies, do tend to
cover cancellations due to financial default.
The case is likely to create a clearer distinction between
supplier policies and third-party insurance, he said. Though
third-party insurance is more expensive, many agents recommend it
to their clients as being more comprehensive.
In California, where a restitution fund compensates consumers
that have lost money to sellers of travel, only two Far&Wide
companies are thought to be covered: Journeys Unlimited and Peter
Voll & Associates.
Those companies had joined the fund before their purchase by
Far&Wide and their individual memberships had not expired. The
other tour operators, however, were registered with the state
through Far&Wide, as their parent company.
As of last week, no claims had been filed, but Antoine Georges,
the California Travel Consumer Restitution Fund president, said he
plans to pursue criminal charges against Far&Wide officials for
violating state consumer protection laws. And Georges said he was
working with state lawmakers to establish a cap on company claims
payments to prevent the restitution fund from being drained by
As of Oct. 8, 150 claims had been filed with the U.S. Tour
Operators Association, which has a $1 million Consumer Protection
Claims must be filed before Dec. 31.
Hank Phillips, president of the National Tour Association, said
the association’s $200,000 consumer protection plan does not apply
to Far&Wide. The fund specifies that companies must file for
bankruptcy in their entirety.
Far&Wide had foreign subsidiaries, such as Lion World, that
were not included in the bankruptcy filing, so the terms of the
plan have not been met.