Consortium Tours of North America (CTN), a New York City-based service-oriented receptive tour operator that has been in business for nearly 35 years, has closed its doors and apparently laid off over 30 staff members last Friday.
“As you undoubtedly know, the impact of OTAs, loss of business in prime markets, political and economic upheavals, low profit margins and the ever faster growing impact of technology on our trade have all severely ravaged our receptive wholesale travel industry,” the company said in an e-mailed statement, adding, “We are therefore forced to discontinue all booking services offered by CTN (hotels & other). Please trust this resolution has not been arrived at lightly, yet it requires us to act with immediate effect.” CTN officially shut down at 5:00 p.m. on Feb. 17.
In an effort to reassure some of its customers and business partners, CTN said that its group department and its group department staff was acquired by “a reputable international wholesaler,” and that CTN group agents would seamlessly transition all group operations. According to the CTN website, the company had 70 employees worldwide. Evidently, according to one supplier familiar with the transaction, CTN’s robust groups business was sold to a South African tour operator.
It also advised its hotel and vendor partners of the closure of the company, noting that, “since we will not be operating, we will not be able to guarantee, service or pay for those future bookings going forward.”
Sources tell the Inbound Report that the operator had difficulty after its owner, Wolf Mertel, made a move to expand into the FIT market, having developed expensive new FIT booking engine just as the market for FIT leisure bookings was being commoditized by OTA’s and the Bed Banks, which rendered mid-scale operators less able to compete, and the European business environment has started to soften.
One New York hotel told the Inbound Report that he found it concerning that no mention was made in the e-mail concerning outstanding invoices due to hoteliers from FIT bookings that were prepaid.
As of this writing, the CTN website is up and functioning with no mention of the closure; efforts to leave a message on the answering machine revealed that it was, not surprisingly, full.