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Far & Wide consequences

What happens when your tour company disappears overnight?
/ Source: Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel

Far & Wide had a heady run of it. Founded in 1999, in a mere four years it managed to gobble up 21 major, name-brand tour operators and companies—venerable outfits like Central Holidays, Adventure Center, and IST Cultural Tours. Then, a lousy economy, and even lousier travel economy, began punishing Far & Wide for growing too big too fast at the wrong historical moment.

InsertArt(2025409)FIRST, SEPT 11 sucker-punched the entire industry, then SARS continued to kick it while it was down, and the war in Iraq convinced untold legions of would-be travelers to stick closer to home, pouring salt on tourism’s wounds.

When Far & Wide’s liquidity crunch came, but new financing didn’t, the giant tourism conglomerate went belly-up practically overnight, filing for bankruptcy mid-afternoon on Wednesday, Sept 24, firing most of its staff (without the last 10 days’ pay)—and leaving thousands of travelers in the lurch.

“Far & Wide” as a company was just four years old, but the companies that it operated had an average of 25 years’ experience. Not all of those venerable names will be disappearing along with the corporate parent. The founders or previous owner/operators of the following tour companies are already in negotiations to buy their agencies back from the bankrupt parent:

Adventure Center (800-227-8747,

African Travel (877-865-3692,

High Country Passage (800-395-3288,

IST Cultural Tours (800-833-2111,

Intercontinental Travel Company (800-567-4248,

Journeys Unlimited (800-486-8359,

Pacific Bestour (800-272-1149,

Regina Tours (800-228-4654,

Swain Tours (866-308-1343,

As for other Far & Wide companies, well, the verdict is not yet in. Some were obviously economically viable on their own. With others, it’s not so clear. (Then there’s Lion World Tours, which, as a Canadian company, is unaffected by the filing and is operating normally; 800-688-9968 in Canada, 800-387-2706 in the US,

Far & Wide’s statements claim that the company has had various other companies and individuals approach them about buying some of these brands, but as of yet we’ve no news as to the future of:

Brian Moore Int’l Tours

Central Holidays

Grand European Tours

Prism Holidays

Downunder Direct


Zeus Tours & Yacht Cruises

Peter Voll Associates

Spanish Heritage Tours

Luckily, even with 21 companies under its corporate umbrella, Far & Wide didn’t hold the corner on the market. Since the announcement, more than 20 travel companies have stepped forward to offer options to those who have booked Far & Wide trips, as well as relief to stranded travelers.


This bankruptcy wasn’t just a corporate court move to fiddle with refinancing while business as usual went on. For many Far & Wide tours, the company simply stopped operating. Immediately. Travelers arrived in London to find no guide waiting to greet them and show them to their tour bus. Some tours were already underway and just ground to a halt midway through the trips.

Well-established tour Titans Globus and Cosmos got on top of the situation almost immediately and, in a very “Tallyho!” moment, scooped up the orphaned arrivals at Heathrow and adopted them onto Cosmos or Globus tours of the same basic itinerary. It even sent out tour directors to board the buses abandoned mid-trip and do their best to just pick up where those tours left off.

So buckus brownie points for Globus and Cosmos, who professed to be concerned about reputation of tour operators in the industry, and, according to PR spokesperson Barbara Bauerle, “Want people to know that there are people out there who care about their travel experience.”


So much for those on the road. What if you have a trip booked but not yet taken? There are two main options—aside from just canceling your planned vacation entirely (though getting your money back may be a bit tricky; we’ll get to that in a moment).

If you are still set on taking that trip, you should know that in many cases—especially if you booked with one of those Far & Wide companies that are likely to be spun off on their own—you will have little difficulty keeping the tour you’ve already booked.

Trevor Saxty of Adventure Center, which is scrambling to try and provide uninterrupted service despite the corporate turmoil, says. “In about 90 percent of the cases we’ve come up with favorable arrangements for folks who already have trips in the pipeline.”

That unlucky 10 percent is a combination of people whose booking just fell at the wrong time in the cycle and got chewed up by the bankruptcy, plus there was some difficulty rearranging things with vendors. Saxty also confirmed that the man who founded Adventure Center 27 years ago is deeply involved with the process of buying the company back. Their intention is that Adventure Center will emerge from this debacle as a separate, independent entity.

So people with trip on Adventure Center, Swain, IST, Pacific Bestour, or those others listed above should check in with the company first. Could be that, at least from the traveler’s point of view, the future won’t be affected at all.

If you’re unlucky enough to be booked on a vacation with one of the Far & Wide divisions that shut up shop immediately upon the bankruptcy filing, you’re still not out of luck. In many cases you will be able to rebook a virtually identical trip with another tour company—though most require you to make the arrangements within the next several weeks (the book-by date varies, but few give you any longer than Oct 31, and some are as early as Oct 10).

Some of the top names in the business—and quite a few scrappy little companies as well—have already stepped forward with some quite generous bail-out offers, including:

Brendan Worldwide Vacations (800-421-8446,

CIE Tours International (800-243-8687,

Celtic International Tours (888-205-0284,

Continental Airlines Vacation (800-829-7777,

Delta Vacations (800-755-4224,

Europe Express (800-927-3876,

Future Vacations (800-788-2545,

Collette Vacations (800-752-2655 in New England, 800-832-4656 Outside the New England area,

Gate 1 (800-682-3333,

Globus and Cosmos (800 372 1761,

Insight Vacations (800-582-8380,

Intrav (800-456-8100,

Maupintour/GutsyWomen Travel (877-772-2743,

Mayflower Tours (800-323-7604,

Pacific Delight (800-221-7179,

Ritz Tours (800-900-CHINA,

Sunny Land Tours (800-783-7839,

Tauck World Discovery (877-842-4653,

Tourism Ireland (800-223-6470,

Trafalgar Tours (800-854-0103,

Travel Bound (800-808-9541,

Look for more to jump on board in the coming days (check for a list of its members who are offering to fill in).

InsertArt(2025407)In most cases, the specifics on how each company will help out Far & Wide customers is posted on each company’s Web site, but as this is a special situation you’ll need to call them at the numbers above to get the ball rolling on a new booking. Keep in mind they’ll want proof of a Far & Wide booking, especially of any amount you’ve already paid as a deposit.

The fine print varies from company to company, but many are offering broadly similar solutions. If you’ve paid Far & Wide only a deposit, in most cases you can book a similar itinerary with the new company and pay roughly the same amount (sometimes even less). The new tour company will simply discount your new booking by the amount of your Far & Wide deposit, and waive any late-booking fees it might otherwise have charged.

This is in part to engender a general goodwill in public—the last thing any of these guys wants is for tourists to get spooked about booking with a tour company—and in part to help land themselves some new loyal customers. In any event, it’s rather sporting of them.

If you’d already paid for a now-cancelled Far & Wide trip in full, well, you’re in a bit of trouble. The most common allowance that the companies above are willing to grant is a 35 percent discount off the land portion of your new European trip (15 percent for trips on other continents, though in some cases North American tours get 35 percent off, too).

Luckily, in many cases you can still take any flights that were booked on your behalf by far & Wide, and in some cases cruises as well. Check with the airline or cruise company. You may have to fill out a ‘lost ticket” form or something, but all told that priciest item on any trip should be in good shape.

However, if you’ve already paid in full, I’d try first to get my money back. Here’s how.


There are four ways to get your money back on a trip paid in full and now cancelled. Try them in this order:

1) If you were prescient or cautious enough to purchase third-party travel insurance—from your travel agent or through a company such as Access America or Travel Guard—read the fine print and give the insurer a call. You’re probably covered. (Can we take a moment to point out: this is precisely why, if you are going to buy travel insurance, you always do it via a third party and never with the travel company itself.)

2) If you paid for the trip with your credit card, get on the horn with that customer service department and see if merely by having used the card you have some sort of insurance via them that will get you a refund.

3) Far & Wide was part of the United States Tour Operator Association (, and has a $1 million corporate bond with them on a consumer protection plan. The proper forms will be posted on the USTOA web site this week, and you have 90 days (by Dec 23) to make a claim, and legit claims will be reimbursed on a pro rata basis (everyone gets a share of the million-dollar pie proportioned according to how much each person got stiffed).

4) Failing all that, you’ll get a chance to line up alongside the company’s other creditors at the bankruptcy court—the United States Southern District Court in Miami—to try to squeeze some of your money back from the liquidation of Far & Wide assets. (I wouldn’t hold your breath.)

{Editor’s Note: Anyone out there caught by the Far & Wide bankruptcy? Has anyone had an experience with another travel company failing, and how did you deal with it? We’d love to hear it and possibly reprint it in our letters to the editor column. Simply click here to send a letter to our editors.}

Copyright © 2003 Newsweek Budget Travel, Inc.

Associate Editor Reid Bramblett writes travel guidebooks for Eyewitness, Frommer’s, and the Idiot’s and For Dummies series (yes, both of them). He joined the Budget Travel staff in 2002.