Travel-agency closure may hit 10,000

SINGAPORE - Thousands of people have been affected by the sudden closure of a well-known travel agency.

Five Stars Tours closed its two outlets in People's Park Complex and Golden Mile Complex on Wednesday.

Chinese newspaper Shin Min Daily News estimated that up to 10,000 people may have been affected, given that the firm had scheduled up to 100 buses a day to make trips to Malaysia around the Chinese New Year period, to cater to the demand from Malaysian workers here heading home for the festive season.

No reason has been given yet for the closure, but the firm appeared to have had financial difficulties. Media reports quoted former staff and industry sources saying that Five Stars had not paid some employees in recent months.

Customers have been going to the two shuttered outlets to seek redress. They were greeted yesterday by notices telling them to make claims through travel-insurance companies, the Small Claims Tribunal or Consumers Association of Singapore.

The notices also stated that the company will be returning customers their passports by registered mail.

One customer told The Straits Times yesterday that Five Stars' sudden closure was "irresponsible and came without warning".

"When hit by financial problems, you should scale down sales instead of taking advantage of the festive crowd," said Mr Stanley Kwok, who bought four tickets to Selangor for the Chinese New Year.

He added: "Chinese New Year is just three weeks away. Can you imagine the number of people affected? What if they can't find other arrangements? It's not just about losing money."

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