| A LEADING consumer group has set up an association for customers affected by tour giant Orizonia going into receivership, leaving thousands of tourists stranded abroad with their hotels demanding money before they let them go home.
The troubled multi-national owns travel agency Vibo Viajes – formerly Viajes Iberia – which is set to close 950 offices, plus the tour operators Iberojet, Solplan, Viva Tours, Kirunna, Condor and Orizonia Life.
It also owns the airline Orbest and the hotel chain Luabay.
On the day Orizonia called in the creditors, 30 physics students from a Madrid university were left stuck on the Riviera Maya in eastern México as their Orbest flight was not going to take off.
And their hotels demanded 1,000 euros each from them before they would let them check out amid fears they would not be paid by the company – despite the fact that the travellers had already paid for their package holiday in full.
Hundreds more were stranded in the Dominican Republic.
The pressure group, set up by consumer organisation FACUA, offers help and advice on its website for affected travellers.
FACUA is also in contact with the various regional governments to find out whether Orizonia and the firms that come under its umbrella had made the requisite financial deposits to ensure that any tourists affected would get their money back.
It is also in contact with the regional and central governments to make sure that they are doing all they can to protect the rights of those who are stuck abroad, unable to go on holiday, or who could have lost money.
The consumer group recalled that a central government directive that went live on June 13, 1990 requires travel agencies offering package and circuit tours to 'provide sufficient proof that in the event of insolvency or bankruptcy, refunds to customers and repatriation of travellers are guaranteed'.
FACUA recommends that anyone who has booked a holiday through Vibo Viajes requests that their hotels and airlines confirm in writing that they intend to provide the service that has been paid for.
If this is not the case or the travel providers refuse, they should make a complaint against the agency via a consumer's union and to the courts.
Customers could find themselves having to make an application as creditors if the pre-agreement by tour operator Barceló to buy Vibo Viajes does not go ahead.
The current situation is similar to that seen when Viajes Marsans went under in 2010, leaving hundreds of thousands of customers either out of pocket, losing their holidays or stuck in a foreign country with no way of getting home.