‘We couldn’t see a way forward’ – dive operator describes 20-month battle to stay afloat

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By Lisa James
Home » ‘We couldn’t see a way forward’ – dive operator describes 20-month battle to stay afloat

The owners of diving specialist Blue 02 Ltd, which has ceased trading as an ATOL holder, have described their battle to save the business during the COVID pandemic.

The Plymouth-based company had been trading since 2003 but said it had no choice but to throw in the towel after 20 months of disruption and paying back millions of pounds to customers for cancelled holidays.

However, directors Jason Strickland and Nathan Taylor said the name will live on, under a restructure that has seen sister company Scuba Tours Worldwide, based in Bury St Edmunds, renamed Blue O Two.

A message on Scuba Tours Worldwide/Blue O Two answerphone says lines will be closed for several days so the company can deal with existing bookings in date order.

“It has been a very challenging time for us and we are doing everything that we can to get back on our feet properly,” the recorded message says.

Mr Strickland and Mr Taylor said: “COVID-19 presented us with the greatest challenge in 18 years of trading.

“The battles we have fought personally coping with the last 20 months of disruption have given us many sleepless nights.

“With limited tailored support for our sector, livelihoods and families were affected across the entire travel industry.

“During this period of huge uncertainty, decision-making has been very difficult. In fact, we wished on many occasions we had a crystal ball. Team members have got used to decisions one day having to be reversed overnight – depending on global government guidance and updates, in particular the UK travel restrictions.”

In a message to customers on the company’s website, they said: “The UK has had the most stringent of travel restrictions in place. They have been consistently changing, hard to understand, and made it almost impossible to deliver what you all love doing the most – diving.

“During a very challenging 20 month period, you have been very patient with us and in some cases have had your holiday rescheduled; in some circumstances, several times. We have felt and shared your pain and always tried to do our best for our customers. We are extremely grateful for the support and understanding you have given us.

“Throughout this period, our commitment to our customers has never wavered. We were ecstatic when the UK Government removed travel restrictions and we were able to operate again. And recent feedback from you, our friends and customers, made it all worthwhile.

“Recently, our ATOL licence was renewed by the CAA – the travel industry regulator.

“Although we were granted a new licence to provide packages including flights, the CAA, with consumers’ best interests in mind, imposed conditions on Blue 02 Limited’s ATOL licence. This, as well as refunding many millions of pounds, has made it difficult for the directors to see a way forward for Blue 02 Ltd which protects the interests of our customers in the current COVID climate.

“Given the financial damage caused by the pandemic, and despite our relentless best efforts to save Blue 02 Ltd, unfortunately, and with regret, the decision was made to cease trading on 15 November 2021.”

The directors added: “We are delighted to say that the Blue O Two brand lives on under Scuba Tours Worldwide Limited – which now trades as Blue O Two. We will continue to operate and provide scuba diving liveaboard holidays with the same devoted team of people.

“As such, we will be able to provide some existing holidays booked with Blue 02 Limited as planned, to some customers.

“We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience and disruption this situation has caused. We can only hope for your understanding and continued support as we recover from the unprecedented challenges of COVID.”

Blue 02 Ltd customers with a live booking or credit note can find out more information here.

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