COVID-19 has been an incredibly difficult time for the travel industry. No business could ever plan for such a catastrophe.
The famous student travel company, STA Travel, established in 1971 by two Australian backpackers, has become the latest victim of the pandemic. We look at why it’s happened and what travellers have to say about it!
With a parent company based in Switzerland, STA Travel have over 200 shops across the globe. 50 shops in the UK and 27 in Australia shut their doors yesterday for the last time and ceased trading.
The pandemic has brought the travel industry to a stand still with a reduced demand for flights and package trips and the company see no way to continue trading with such an uncertain future.
Hundreds of staff have lost their jobs (around 500 in the UK) and thousands of travellers have been left with cancelled trips and without refunds. Customers who have been left in limbo have been told by STA that they will be contacting them as soon as possible with more information.
Can you get a refund? – What to do if you have a booking with STA Travel
If you have a booking pending with STA Travel, Moneysavingexpert have some great tips on what to do…
- If you have booked a package with a flight – You will be covered by the ATOL scheme if you had a flight booked and hadn’t yet started your trip before STA Travel went bust. You can claim a full refund here.
- If you booked a package without a flight – You should be able to claim a full refund via the ABTA protection scheme. (ABTA are the trade association for travel agents.)
- If you have booked a flight only – This is a bit more tricky. Your first point of call should be to contact the airline itself. You may still be able to travel or get a refund if STA already paid for the flight.
Are big companies more fragile than we thought?
As a traveller, there’s a feeling of safety and security when you book a trip with a big, household name. You tend to think that if a company is so big, there’s not much chance they could go bust and you could lose your money.
Coronavirus has turned the world upside down and made us realise that no business is immune to global events. In fact, larger businesses that have more staff, overheads and bills to pay can be even more vulnerable to change and less sustainable than small, independent companies.
Note – Here at SEA Backpacker, for example, we offer full refunds to any travellers who had booked a trip through our website or book in the future! As we wait for travel to return to normal (fingers crossed) our 4-person team are keeping this website going out of pure love rather than money – which may be the only way for travel businesses to survive this time…
What do travellers think?
“They used to be good 15 years ago. Booked flights in store there in 2001/2002. I think long since irrelevant because of the internet. Sad for those who have lost jobs. But everything is online now, so…” – Matthew
“I booked my first ever trip to Asia with STA 15 years ago! Back then, in a world without travel blogs, the expertise of a travel agent was much more important than it is now. It was a great place for a newbie backpacker to find their feet… ” – Nikki, SEA Backpacker Editor
“They posted me and my friend into the worst place in Koh Phangan for the Full Moon Party; The Drop Inn. Horrific virtually abandoned hotel in Haad Rin – when we’d asked for a beach bungalow! (This was back in 2011 to be fair). We laughed our asses off when we arrived then winged it from there onwards, learning from our mistakes… my travelling mantra: Never Plan, Never Book!” – Kate
“I think the era of hyperglobalism and open borders of the past 30 years is dead… Many of these businesses won’t return for a long time.” – Danny
“I’m not sad to see all these foreign OTAs and travel companies go under. Book direct with local companies! Stop tourism leakage. The travel industry and the world in general would be healthier and more equitable if so many tourism dollars stopped being funnelled to shareholders and other pockets abroad.” – Luke
“We have a large amount of credit with them from cancelled flights that I fear I will never see again!” – Rachel
“We had two flights booked for 27th August from London to Darwin, Australia. We contacted them a couple weeks ago to move flights to next year and were told they’d keep our £1,200 GBP as credit and to get in contact in October when prices are out for next year. I’ve put a claim in through my credit card which can take 45 days but not sure what’s going to happen!” – Emily
Have you been affected by the closure of STA Travel? Join in the debate in our Facebook group.
South East Asia Backpacker Newsletter
Keep up to date with the latest travel news. Be the first on the plane when travel opens up.