Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain in the Autumn for a month or so
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Gay holiday company 'Respect' folds

I have just clicked on to the 'Respect' website (for the present it is here - who knows for how much longer) and the following statement is all that remains; I quote it in full in case the website disappears:



respect


It is with regret and sadness that, after ten years at the forefront of the gay holiday industry, I am left with no option other than to close Respect Holidays.

It is no secret that a combination of oil price uncertainty, the weakness of sterling and the general economic downturn has hit the travel business very hard indeed. Respect held substantial flying contracts with Excel Airways and, since Excel ceased trading, Respect has suffered significant financial losses. Put simply, the financial hit taken in the wake of the Excel collapse has been the straw that broke the camel's back.

Unfortunately, unlike members of the travelling public, Respect has no protection against losses sustained by the closure of Excel and in the current climate we are simply unable to take these losses in our stride. To continue to trade would therefore be dishonest to our customers, staff and suppliers.

Respect is fully bonded with the Civil Aviation Authority under the ATOL scheme and customers currently overseas will be able to complete their holidays. Customers who purchased a package (flight and holiday) and are yet to travel are entitled to a full refund of all monies paid and should visit the Civil Aviation Authorty's website (www.caa.co.uk) for detailed information.

Customers who purchased an accommodation only holiday and who paid a total of more than £100 may be protected by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974. If you paid by Visa debit card you should contact your bank for advice on making a 'charge back'. In both instances, you should check with your card issuer for further advice. For further advise please call Cega Claims on 01243 621500.

To many people Respect has been more than just a travel company. I would like to thank the many hundreds of regular customers, some of whom have been booking their holidays with us since the very beginning, who have all contributed to making the Respect family such a special place to be. I am very proud of what we have achieved, and devastated that economic circumstances have led to the current situation. I am sorry we couldn't keep it going for you.

Finally, I would like to thank all our staff, past and present, in the UK and overseas for their support and dedication over the past ten years. You are the best in the business and I wish you all every success for the future.

Paul Kilcoyne

Thye 'r' and 'p' of the company were Rob and Paul (its founders and proprietors), formerly with gay travel company 'Sensations'; they left that firm some years ago as a result of a dispute, if I recall correctly, and formed their own travel firm. I travelled once with 'Sensations' (whilst the two were still there) and, I think, three or four times with 'respect', but my final booking with them didn't come off as they had an earlier financial problem before the present one that seems to have put them out of business (or rather the travel firm which actually held the ATOL licence under which they then operated went into receivership and my booking was voided); they had sufficient assets then to find another travel firm willing to cover them under its ATOL licence and so they continued to trade. Because the last financial 'hiccouph' occurred only about 7 or 10 days prior to the date I was booked to travel, and before my refund under the ATOL scheme came through, I was offered the opportunity to pay again for my holiday so that I could travel - I declined this 'opportunity' as I'm afraid that my motto tends when dealing with commercial organisations (the fact that they are 'gay' owned and operated makes no difference to me - business is business) to be:
Once bitten, twice shy!

- and the rather incredulous response I got when I voiced these sentiments over the telephone to Paul at the time, that I should somehow find it quite 'normal' to fork out for a holiday I had already paid for struck me as pretty inept. Although I visited the website regularly thereafter, I had no intention of ever booking a holiday with that firm again.

Incidentally, after the airline Excel/XL went into receivership a couple of weeks ago, the 'message board' on the 'respect' website almost immediately went behind some kind of pseudo-password smokescreen, presumably because there were so many negative comments that it was doing damage to the company. The nonsense that was put on the website was that the number of hits had overloaded the server was, in my opinion, just so much 'whitewash' as their 'message board' was hosted by 'Bravenet', the Vancouver-based web-hosting company through whom I have my own 'message board' and with whom I host a couple of my own registered website domains. I think it was just a way of closing down 'unhelpful' discussions on their 'message board'; they have had a habit of removing 'unhelpful' (i.e. 'negative') messages from the 'message board' for as long as I can remember and whilst they seemed like nice people to deal with when things were going well, there was no sentiment when things turned sour - and why should there be, after all 'business is business', for a 'gay' travel company just as for any other. But the corollary also applies - 'gay' former customers such as me may have liked dealing with a 'gay' travel company because they understood the needs of this market better than most, but sentiment can only be taken so far in both directions.

I am very sorry, despite the rather 'sour' tone of this article, to see the demise of 'respect'; another 'gay' travel company went into receivership a week earlier, the company trading under the name 'throb' - their website announcement is here. It was also a victim of the Excel/XL collapse.

I have checked the Sensations website and observe it still seems to be operating from what I can see, but 'caveat emptor' is probably good advice when paying money out in advance for future services right now. PS/ Of course, 'Sensations' recently merged with 'respect' so I am not sure what its future may be; perhaps only one part of the business of Lidana Ltd (the company operating both travel firms) has folded; no doubt it will become clear in coming days.

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