Hundreds of Australian students were facing the collective loss of more than $2 million they paid in advance for overseas school trips after a travel company went into liquidation.
A firm has been appointed liquidator for Educational World Travel (EWT), being used to organise end-of-year student tours to the United States for 2021.
Liquidator David Coyne, of BRI Ferrier, said more than 800 students and their families were owed a total of $2.3 million by EWT.
The company’s collapse affected students from New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.
Terry Steele, from Bathurst in central-western New South Wales, said his family had already paid $2,000 to the company for his daughter’s trip, which had a total cost of about $6,000.
Mr Steele said his daughter, Charlotte, had contributed to the deposit by working at a butcher’s shop each week to help pay for the trip.
“It’s very frustrating,” Mr Steele said.
“I feel sorry for the parents that have worked hard to come up with the money, but … I don’t believe there’ll be any money coming back.”
Bathurst mother, Natalie Cox, said she had transferred thousands of dollars to EWT for a trip for her daughter Bianca.
Ms Cox said she had paid the money in instalments and had tried to stop making the payments to EWT when the COVID-19 crisis began.
But she said she was repeatedly assured by the company that there was no need to cease payments and that a decision to either postpone or cancel trips due to the pandemic would be made later in 2020.
“They have now made it very bitter for me and I would not be able to afford (another trip).”
EWT went into voluntary administration on November 30.
“This action is a direct result of the devastating effect of COVID-19 on the travel industry, particularly international travel,” an email statement from EWT said.
Attempts by the ABC to contact a spokesperson for EWT were unsuccessful.
Mr Steele said he believed the company had handled the situation “poorly”.
“They’ve had no communication at all in regards to any issues,” he said.
While students and their families were made aware of the trips through their schools, it is unclear what role the schools had in the organisation process.
The ABC has contacted the New South Wales Department of Education for comment.
The liquidator’s creditors’ report states it understands EWT has $113,000 in its bank account but it is still waiting for a response from banks.
It said students were considered to be unsecured creditors of the company.
Liquidator David Coyne told the ABC he expected to be able to provide an update in February.