Jewels of the World and Travel World International (TWI) stopped trading on 14 August 2006, at the busiest time of the year for UK tourists to Northern Cyprus.
The holding company is a Turkish Cypriot company, and the trading names in the UK were TWI Flights, Jewels of the World, and flightcabin.com. The companies were based in Ilford, Essex and sold package holidays and flights to Northern Cyprus.
The company arranged flights from Stansted initially via Onur Air, and latterly with Atlas Jets. The demise of TWI means that the only flights from the UK to North Cyprus are with Turkish Airlines and Cyprus Turkish Airlines.
At the termination of trading, it is estimated that there were some 520 holidaymakers stranded in Kyrenia in addition to intending travellers who had booked from the UK and paid for their tickets to North Cyprus.
Former Director of TWI, Ibrahim Kanli, issued a press statement yesterday in which he blamed stiff competition from direct flights to Larnaca in south Cyprus as the main factor contributing to the company's collapse.
He said: "Despite our best efforts we could not compete with Larnaca's shorter, cheaper flights. A direct transfer is naturally more attractive to customers than a two-leg journey to Ercan via Turkey. And a two leg journey is naturally more expensive to operate."
He added: "This coupled with other factors affecting tourism to the region, such as avian flu and the world cup, left us with no alternative but to make a very difficult decision at the worst possible time." The companies decided to go bankrupt.
Mr Kanli, who has worked in the North Cyprus tourist trade for some 15 years, claimed yesterday to have achieved more through TWI than any other English tour operator. He said: "By serving nearly 100,000 customers in the face of international embargoes, TWI has had the courage to do what no other English tour operator has done. We operated flights twice weekly and, later, on a daily basis, and some 92% of our customers also stayed in North Cyprus hotels."
The situation for customers who were in North Cyprus when the company stopped trading is that they are protected by ATOL (Air Travel Organiser's Licensing)
Travel World International held ATOL licence number 3757 and provided a £950,000 bond to the CAA, which will be used to rescue and reimburse those affected.
The demise of TWI and Jewels of the World is an unfortunate event. Many British customers will miss the cheery and helpful presence of Mr Kanli at Stansted and the high level of personal service given to UK customers.
It is especially unfortunate that the companies ceased trading during the busiest period of the year. However, the summer season of 2006 has been a disappointment for tour operators, airlines and hotels in North Cyprus. In addition to the World Cup and the presence of Bird Flu in the Karpaz peninsular earlier in the year, the ongoing uncertainly surrounding the Orams Case, coupled with the significant price rises of holiday accommodation, has impacted on the tourist market.
Since the borders between North and South Cyprus have been opened, there has been a noticeable trend for tourists to North Cyprus to fly to Larnaca in the Greek Republic of Cyprus and then travel north to the TRNC. The fact that the border crossing on the return trip can be problematic has not thwarted this traffic. Many British tourists have complained of delays and harassment by Greek Cypriot border guards who have become very interested in travellers who have TRNC property details in their possession. This is because the Greek Cypriots regard property development in North Cyprus as taking place on ‘stolen Greek land'.
The under occupancy of North Cyprus hotels is due to a number of factors. Firstly, prices have risen without any obvious underlying economic rationale, and secondly, many British travellers stay in villas in North Cyprus, either in property they rent or own themselves. There has been a building boom in North Cyprus since 2004, and the majority of purchasers of North Cyprus property are British.
The demise of TWI reinforces the importance of the issue of direct flights from the UK to North Cyprus, without the intervening stopover in Turkey. This is part of the ongoing Cyprus Problem and the insistence of the Greek Republic of Cyprus that North Cyprus should be treated as a pariah by the international community. The fact that the Greek Republic of Cyprus is now a member of the EU has provided them with a new forum in which to promote their hostility to the TRNC.
Copyright - Leslie Hardy - 20 August 2006