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Travel agency Tellmeclub files for bankruptcy with 15 bil. yen debt

2017.03.28

Chikako Yamada (standing), president of Tokyo-based travel agency Tellmeclub, attends a press conference in Tokyo on March 27, 2017, announcing the company filed for bankruptcy the same day, with a total debt of 15.1 billion yen ($136 million). (Kyodo)

A travel agency which offers budget overseas tours and has been under fire for failing to issue air tickets filed for bankruptcy Monday, with a total debt of 15.1 billion yen ($136 million).

The filing by Tokyo-based travel agency Tellmeclub is the fourth largest bankruptcy in Japan's tourism industry, according to credit research agency Tokyo Shoko Research.

The Japan Tourism Agency has recently launched an investigation into Tellmeclub in the wake of a spate of complaints from customers that they have not received flight tickets from the company.

The 15.1 billion yen liabilities include 9.9 billion yen owed to 36,000 customers, according to the agency's lawyer.

Tellmeclub fell into an operating loss in the year through September 2014, though it posted record sales of 19.5 billion yen in the year through September 2016, according to Tokyo Shoko Research.

Chikako Yamada, president of the travel agency, made an apology at a press conference in Tokyo, saying that its business had deteriorated due to increasing spending on newspaper advertising.

Tellmeclub, established in 1998, found it difficult to provide low-cost tours to destinations such as Hawaii and Guam as advertising and labor costs had been rising, according to another research firm Teikoku Databank.

The weakening yen also raised foreign-currency-denominated payments, Teikoku Databank said.

The company failed to pay roughly 400 million yen to secure air tickets to the International Air Transport Association, a global airlines association, by the Thursday deadline.

The travel agency will consult with the Japan Association of Travel Agents as to how to reimburse the travel fees, although only 1 percent of them are likely to be repaid, the lawyer said.

Although about 2,500 customers of Tellmeclub were travelling abroad as of Sunday, their tickets are valid and they are not expected to have any problem in returning home, the Japan Tourism Agency said.

==Kyodo

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