Troubled wholesaler Excite Holidays has stopped taking new bookings, according to a report in the Australian outlet Travel Daily.
Executive director Nicholas Stavropoulos told staff the company is in talks with investors, but "the decision has been made to stop any new bookings being created at this time, pending the outcome of the discussions," according to the report.
Additionally, virtual credit cards issued by Excite Holidays to pay for confirmed bookings are no longer valid due to lack of available funds, Travel Daily reports. And agents with disrupted customers continue to be advised to get their clients to pay again and then "lodge a service complaint" with the company.
The Sydney-based company, which on its website claims to offer access to more than 400,000 hotels and apartments and 100,000 activities in more than 150 cities around the globe, reportedly laid off a number of workers just before Christmas. Shortly thereafter it said it began experiencing "platform issues."
Emails to the company this week have gone unanswered. Phone calls go onto extended hold, although callers are first greeted with a recording.
"We regret to advise that Excite Holidays is currently experiencing some platform issues and bookings have been affected," the recording says.
It goes on to say that its team is working to solve the issue and recommends that agents with clients who may show up for bookings that have not been paid for should "advise clients to pay the travel provider, keep the receipts and lodge a service complaint with the next 30 days."
According to Travel Daily, some staff received termination letters just before the holidays, citing Excite's "severe loss of revenues and financial loss."
Travel Daily also reported earlier this week that the company was in talks to sell all or part of its global operations to Las Vegas-based Bonotel, a North America inbound tour operator.
In an interview with Travel Weekly Australia on Tuesday, Excite executive director Nicholas Stavropoulos declined to confirm the report, saying only that the company was in discussions about a potential business deal.
Stavropoulos also said Excite was still "working around the clock to assist passengers" after it suffered "system issues" in late December that affected a number of its bookings and calls.
American travel agent Pat Ogle-Collins of Wizard of Odysseys in Virginia said that after seeing the notice of issues on a Facebook page she contacted hotels she had booked through Excite Holidays and was told the reservations were good, but that payment is not made until after the stay.
To be safe, she said, she has rebooked clients whose reservations were made through the wholesaler, which has offices around the globe.
Sally Black, founder of the Vacation Kids agency in Pennsylvania, said a few tours she had booked through Excite were "mysteriously" canceled over the holidays, but her clients have been notified that refunds are being processed.
She said she and her clients are waiting and watching for refunds and, hopefully, more information when her contact at the company returns from vacation Jan. 13.
"The rest of our Excite bookings are for Presidents Week and spring break, so we're holding tight for the moment until we know more," Black said.
According to Travel Daily, Excite Holidays in December 2018 "voluntarily withdrew" from the Australian Federation of Travel Agents Travel Accreditation Scheme that protects travelers from losses when companies go under.
Excite Holidays' website indicates the company is an associate member of the U.S. Tour Operators Association (USTOA), which has a similar protection program, but USTOA president and CEO Terry Dale said Wednesday that the company is no longer an active member.