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Around Town shuts down; leaves trade in dark (11/29/2001)

"The 30-year-old operator was there one day and gone the next..."

By David Cogswell

BENSALEM, Pa. -- Caribbean specialist Around Town Tours ceased operations leaving most of its agent customers and consumers in the dark.

Although ASTA received a letter from the company stating that it had ceased operations, none of the agents contacted by Travel Weekly received the letter --or any other communication from the company. As of Nov. 28, the company's voice-mail message still says, "We are busy helping other travel agents. Your call is important to us."

Agents said clients were showing up at Sandals to find that their packages had not been paid for.

"People are arriving at Sandals right now and finding out they owe $5,000 on their package," said John Allison, owner of Ahoy Cruise and Travel of Wildwood, N.J.

The 30-year-old operator was there one day and gone the next, according to Beth Layton, owner of David's Travel of Mantua, N.J., who did business with the company for over 20 years.

"When I called I was just getting the recording," said Layton. "My partner and I said, 'Something strange is going on.' So I got in my car and drove over to Bensalem and the office was all dark. The furniture is still there but there is no one there."

Agents also reported that tickets purchased from Around Town Tours for Air Jamaica during the summer sale did not go through to the airline.

ASTA's consumer affairs department sent a letter to Around Town Tours to check the company's status, according to Christine Dotsler, consumer affairs coordinator and received a letter back that was addressed to travel agents.

It said that the company had suspended operations and was reviewing "what, if any, obligations can be paid in the future."

None of the agents who spoke to Travel Weekly received the letter.

The letter informed agents that the company had not paid for hotel reservations their clients paid for. "Thus your customers may be charged by the hotel for their reservations," it said.

The company reportedly has not declared bankruptcy.

Report Reprinted from Travel Weekly Magazine (A Travel Industry trade publication for travel agents.)

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