Red Cat Adventures owners Asher and Julie Telford pictured when they won gold in the Major Tour and Transport Operator category, at the 2019 Whitsunday Tourism Awards.
Red Cat Adventures owners Asher and Julie Telford pictured when they won gold in the Major Tour and Transport Operator category, at the 2019 Whitsunday Tourism Awards.

‘Financially devastated’: Owner’s heartbreak over $161K owed

A WHITSUNDAYS tourism operator owed $161,000 by a travel booking website says it's just "heart breaking".

Red Cat Adventures is just one of a number of operators in the region to be owed money by Adventium Technology Group, who has suspended payments to operators who use its product WebsiteTravel.

WebsiteTravel is an online travel wholesaler that connects booking agents and suppliers (operators).

Red Cat Adventures owner Julie Telford said her business was owed $161,000 from bookings in February and March, prior to COVID-19.

"They have financially devastated my whole business," Mrs Telford, who runs the business with husband Asher, said.

"In addition to the $161,000 we are owed, we have to factor in our costs. To carry out those tours we paid our staff, suppliers, food, fuel - you can add another $100,000 for that.

"It's just been heart breaking for our business to go from gold tourism award winner at the start of the year, to having no business a week later. Letting staff go is the hardest thing.

"We hope we get paid and we can all go on with our lives."

Mrs Telford said Red Cat Adventure's agents used the Adventium booking system to book Red Cat tours for customers.

"And they're supposed to pay us once the tour's been completed. The agent gets their commission and I get my ticket price, and it's all done on one system.

"It's a great system - we have never had an issue with it and we have built relationships with the people who run the system.

"The agents never for one second thought we wouldn't get paid, so they are upset because Red Cat Adventures has not been paid."

Mrs Telford said not all the agents had been given enough money to pay refunds back to customers when tourists had to go home due to the coronavirus.

"Customers that had booked on the tours then went for a refund and some agents have had to refund customers out of their own money," she said.

"It's a really frustrating situation - they've done over everybody.

"We obviously hoped that by doing a news story (with the ABC) something would happen and after four weeks of no communication from them, we got an email from them, for the first time, last night (Wednesday).

"We will wait to see if they do what they say they're going to do - I honestly don't know how they're going to come up with the money.

"We just have to hope and pray they're going to come to the table and give us what they owe us.

"The industry deserves better than this."

A statement from Adventium Technology Group managing director Andrew Cox was published on the company's website, on April 9, which read:

"Like most marketplaces, WebsiteTravel is an asset light company and operates on a negative working capital model.

"Unfortunately, this model has unwound at such a rapid pace as a result of Covid-19 government enforced shut-downs, that we now need to undertake to raise new capital to repair the balance sheet to ensure that all obligations are met.

"This will ensure the business is sufficiently resourced to continue to grow and benefit from the recovery in travel and tourism.

"Consequently, pending completion of the Capital Raise, to ensure the survival of the WebsiteTravel platform, Adventium Technology will be suspending payments to all agents, operators, suppliers and customers during this period.

"Our intention is to complete the Capital Raise by the end of April and to ensure that all outstanding payments are made in early May. (Note this is subject to change without notice in the event there is a delay in completing the Capital Raise for any reason)."

No one was available for comment when the Whitsunday Times tried to contact Adventium Technology Group.