Director of collapsed wildlife operator speaks of personal heartbreak

By Linsey McNeill
Home » Director of collapsed wildlife operator speaks of personal heartbreak

The director of a family-run wildlife specialist has posted an emotional message speaking of his personal heartbreak at the collapse of the Leeds-based business.

Bird Holidays ceased trading on 10 August, almost 18 months after it was last able to operate a single tour.

A message from Director Paul Willoughby posted on the company’s website said: “It is with a heavy heart that I am announcing that Bird Holidays has stopped trading.

“Since the pandemic was declared in March 2020 it has been impossible for us to safely operate a single tour and it has been heartbreaking to watch a thriving business, popular with customers and guides alike, deteriorate to the extent that it has.”

The company sold bird and wildlife viewing tours to destinations including  Madagascar, Ethiopia and Indonesia, all of which have been out of bounds since March last year.

Mr Willoughby added: “The earliest we could operate would be spring 2022. In such circumstances I feel it is no longer wise to carry on.”

The Civil Aviation Authority said it is currently collating information on the ATOL holder.

Paul Willoughby, aged 53, who ran the business with Ian Willoughby, aged 78, added in his post: “From humble beginnings Bird Holidays grew into something to be very proud of and I take heart in the huge amounts of positive feedback we received over the years.

“I am so grateful to everyone who put their trust in me and the other leaders to deliver some truly memorable holidays.

“I would also like to take the opportunity to thank the lads who helped me make the business what it was. Andy Woodall, Roger Barnes, Phil Palmer, John McLoughlin and Lance Degnan are not only outstanding leaders, but also great work mates.

“Each of them brought so much to the business, and a perfect example of where the sum is greater than the parts. I’m just so sorry that Andy Foster and Terry McEvoy, who had both planned to lead their first trips in April 2020, were not able to fulfil their ambitions. I wish all of them the very best in the future.

“It has often been said that we are living through a golden age of foreign birding, where habitats are still intact, birds plentiful, and travel more affordable and comfortable than ever. That era has now come to an end for Bird Holidays, but hopefully the industry will restart as life returns to normal.

“It has been a fantastic 30 years for me, full of excitement and wonder at the natural world, and so on behalf of myself and all the other leaders, thank you to all our lovely customers for making it possible.”

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