The founder of tour firm Airtours, now MyTravel, David Crossland, was last night battling to save the United Kingdom's largest tour operator. MyTravel bosses were locked in talks yesterday afternoon after the holiday company issued its third profit warning in five months and its share price fell 28 per cent during morning trade, on the back of Thursday's 68 per cent fall in share value. At 11am yesterday, MyTravel shares were trading at 20.5 pence as the company's future was thrown into doubt. While last night the company was not in a position to make any fresh comments, earlier in the day a spokeswoman moved to reassure investors, saying that the company has committed financial facilities to “take us through the low winter season.” News of MyTravel's predicament sent jitters through the Majorcan tourist industry yesterday. But industry sources in Palma said that while everyone is slightly nervous, “hoteliers contracted to MyTravel are not worried about suspension of payments.” There is little for tourists currently on holiday in the Balearics with MyTravel to worry about either. The company is registered with ABTA and bonded through ATOL which guarantees the customers can continue their holidays untroubled whatever happens. It is David Crossland, who has been forced to put his November retirement date back to save the business he built from scratch, and his new chief executive, Peter McHugh, who may well be worried. Poor holiday sales this summer, which left MyTravel with around one million unsold package holidays, and a £30 million black hole in their accounts which Crossland uncovered, have led to the third profit warning that a further £50 million could be wiped off its profits, and a surprise loss of confidence in the City. Crossland was one of the City's golden boys and he took Airtours from strength to strength. On Wednesday his shares, for example, were worth £37 million, at the close of trading on Thursday, the shares were worth £6.4 million. This year, MyTravel's market value has slumped from £1.4 billion to £140 million. Crossland has warned holidaymakers not to panic as the holiday company is not heading for collapse, but competitors have been quick to take advantage of the situation with Thomson, part of the German TUI group and owner of more than 900 UK travel agents, including Lunn Poly, announcing that it has taken all MyTravel products off its shelves; yesterday afternoon Thomas Cook, with 650 travel agents across the UK, were deciding whether to follow suit. Three years ago Crossland bought the Bellvue holiday complex in Alcudia, one of the largest in Europe, and the tour firm, which includes the brands Going Places, Late Escapes, Airtours Holidays, Cresta, Aspro and Bridge, brings just over one million tourists to the Balearics each year and operates three cruise ships out of Palma during the summer. Crossland, who started the business 30 years ago when he bought a Lancashire travel agency which had two stores, told the Bulletin two years ago that watching his three cruise ships sailing in and out of Palma at the same time, was one of the “proudest moments” of his career.” He floated Airtours on the London Stock market in 1987 and its shares stood at 180p. At one pint it was the world's biggest holiday business worth two billion pounds. Crossland's aim was to see the company in the FTSE 100 index of leading shares, but now there are reports of several American leisure companies pondering a £400 million bid for the MyTravel group, according to the Observer. Three years ago First Choice and Airtours attempted to join forces, but the deal was blocked by the European competition authorities and a bid from the States may well force First Choice to fight.


To be able to write a comment, you have to be registered and be logged in.

* Mandatory fields

Currently there are no comments.