Travel agent Asiatravel.com and its subsidiaries, AT Reservation Network, AT Express and S.H. Tours, may be suspended by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) for being unable to fulfil some of their outstanding obligations to their business partners and customers.
STB said the notice was served on grounds of public interest after Asiatravel's auditor cited concerns over the group's ability to continue operations. STB said yesterday it served a notice of intent to suspend the group in accordance with the Travel Agents Act.
Catalist-listed Asiatravel.com Holdings suspended trading a week ago after it received queries from its creditors, suppliers and stakeholders about its financial position, following a failure by its controlling shareholder to make a key funding payment of $7.35 million.
The payment, meant for the group's continued operations and debt repayment, was due on June 30, and had been based on a binding note on the subscriber, ZhongHong Holding.
The group said then it was in discussions with its advisers "to determine the best course of action and the various options available to the group to secure its cash flow in a timely manner and to fend off any other creditors' claims".
The group also suffered a net loss of $34.6 million for the financial period ending Dec 31 last year.
SHOCKED BY NEWS
I'm shocked because they have been doing so well. Profit margins are not big for online booking systems. However, the market is still very healthy since Singapore is a well-known destination for tourism.
MR BERNARD YU, head of SingExpress Travel's inbound Asia department, on Asiatravel's woes.
The STB statement added that Asiatravel and its subsidiaries have 14 days to submit reasons to the board as to why they should not have their travel agent licences suspended.
Asiatravel describes itself as "Asia's leading online travel company" with an international inventory of more than eight million travel products. It has 17 offices in Asia, the Middle East and Europe.
It was established in 1995 and has been listed on the Singapore Exchange since 2001.
It also won the best online travel agency award at the TTG Travel Awards from 2013 to last year.
The head of SingExpress Travel's inbound Asia department, Mr Bernard Yu, said he was surprised by the news. "I'm shocked because they have been doing so well. Profit margins are not big for online booking systems," he said.
"However, the market is still very healthy since Singapore is a well-known destination for tourism."
STB said the group will still have to ensure that customer bookings are not affected, and make good all existing obligations to their consumers and industry partners during this period.
They must also inform their customers of STB's notice immediately.
STB said it "takes a serious view against errant travel agents and will not hesitate to take necessary actions to protect the reputation of Singapore's travel industry".
An updated list of licensed travel agents here can be found at https://trust.yoursingapore.com.