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USTOA Completes Disbursement of Cruise West PaymentsApril 13, 2011 By: George Dooley Travel Agent
The U.S. Tour Operators Association (USTOA) reported that it has completed its mission to assist travelers affected by the Cruise West bankruptcy that took place in September 2010. According to association President Terry Dale, the USTOA worked extensively with affected consumers to ensure that they were aware of all available channels for reimbursements. Unresolved claims totaled $2.8 million, mainly representing parties who had paid by cash.
Once Cruise West ceased operations in September 2010, USTOA’s $1 Million Travelers Assistance Program went into effect to aid affected passengers, according to Dale. USTOA immediately became an information clearinghouse by answering phone calls, emails and posting information on its website to assist those who initially had deposits or payments with Cruise West.
The USTOA office and website directed passengers to sources that could help them recover their monies, such as the Federal Maritime Commission¸ various credit card companies, the Travel Industry Council of Ontario and third-party insurance companies, said Dale. Information on the website was updated in a timely manner and the association kept all claimants informed throughout the reviewing process.
While many passengers succeeded in receiving reimbursement through outside sources, a total of 249 claimants were unable to qualify for such compensation. These unresolved claims totaled $2.8 million, mainly representing parties who had paid by cash. USTOA helped these passengers file for reimbursement through the $1 million bond that each active USTOA member must set aside as a condition of association membership.
“It is important to remember that this bond is held to help those who have no other means of recourse. Without the bond in place, these clients would have otherwise lost 100 percent of their payments or would have had to file in bankruptcy court along with all other creditors,” said John Stachnik, USTOA chairman.
“While we acknowledge that the $1 million may not cover all losses, USTOA is the only travel industry trade association that requires its members to put aside that amount solely to help reimburse consumer payments and deposits in case the company becomes insolvent, ceases operation, or declares bankruptcy, ” said Stachnik.
“Our service to clients goes further than that. As already mentioned, we try to make the consumer’s life as easy as possible in a difficult situation, by assisting them and providing them information to aid in recovering their funds,” Stachnik said.