A travel agency specialising in coach trips to Malaysia closed down unexpectedly yesterday.
People who turned up at Konsortium Express And Tours' head office at Golden Mile Tower were shocked to find its doors locked and the lights turned off.
A notice pasted on the door said that the agency had shut due to the company facing a "financial crisis", and that all services had ceased with immediate effect.
It advised customers with unfulfilled trips to make a travel insurance claim or to go to the Small Claims Tribunals to apply for a refund.
"We are deeply apologetic for the sudden closure, and we seek your forgiveness," the notice read.
Konsortium is popular with people travelling to Malaysia.
Last month, The Straits Times reported that Konsortium's coach tickets for the Chinese New Year Eve period had almost sold out, with the agency deploying four times as many buses as usual across the Causeway.
The agency's closure caught other workers in the building by surprise as well.
Mr Derrick Liew, 42, who works at the coffee shop next to the agency, said: "They were open yesterday, and I did not notice anything strange."
An employee of nearby coach agency Starmart Express who wanted to be known only as Madam Fu, 71, said she was surprised to hear that the company had shut, but added that she had not been seeing many Konsortium coaches in the past year.
The Express and Excursion Bus Association said some of its member companies will provide free trips to those who bought tickets directly with Konsortium, and who are travelling to Malaysia from now until March 1.
Affected travellers can call the association on 6298-8425 or contact Grassland Express & Tours, Lapan Lapan Travel, Sri Maju Tours & Travel, Transtar Travel, The One Travel & Tours or WTS Travel & Tours. A spokesman for the association told ST that it heard about the closure only yesterday morning, and was unable to get in touch with Konsortium, which is one of its members.
"Our focus now is on helping any affected travellers the best we can," he said, adding that the association is expecting a lot of people to be affected as Konsortium is one of the largest coach companies here.
Transtar Travel managing director Elson Yap said: "I knew that Konsortium was facing financial difficulties last year, but this sudden closure came as a shock."
They were open yesterday, and I did not notice anything strange.
MR DERRICK LIEW, who works at the coffee shop next to the agency.
Chan Brothers Travel has also stepped in to offer affected Konsortium travellers a 10 per cent discount off selected package tours.
The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) said last night it had revoked Konsortium's travel agent licence.
It urged affected consumers who had purchased travel insurance before the closure to approach their insurance providers for assistance.
It added that the Surface Transport Committee of the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (Natas) is rallying local transport operators to take over affected bookings if necessary.
"We would like to take this opportunity to remind consumers to take measures to protect themselves, such as paying by instalments and purchasing travel insurance that provides coverage for unforeseen events such as when a travel agent becomes insolvent," said STB.
The executive director of the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case), Mr Loy York Jiun, said it had received one complaint involving Konsortium's closure.
He said affected customers can create a record with Case so that it can update them on any new developments.
Earlier, Ms Ong Ling Lee, STB's travel agents and tourist guides director, said it is looking into the matter and may take action if any laws have been contravened.
When ST went to the home of one of Konsortium's listed secretaries, an occupant of the house declined to comment.