Several well informed sources have indicated that there may be announcement soon regarding a new ferry service from the mainland to Madeira. This could happen as soon as the autumn and would reconnect the island to the mainland at Setubal, only 40km south of Lisbon. The previous Naviera ARMAS ferry, a service which ceased at the end of January this year (see blog archives for January), docked in the Algarve at Portimao. Setubal’s rather dubious claim to fame is as the birthplace of one José Mário dos Santos Mourinho Félix (or as he is better known, simply José Mourinho). Rumours, if they are to be believed, indicate a higher capacity and reportedly cheaper service? Watch this space!
The photo shows the last ferry to leave Madeira in January 2012 amid great controversy after the Regional Government refused to reduce the landing fees and the ferry company carried out its threat to cease the Funchal stop on the route from Portimao to the Canaries. This service still runs although it now departs from Huelva to Tenerife and Gran Canaria
Bit of a lengthy article this but I guess if you are affected then as much information as possible will be helpful. On a personal note I bumped into a couple at the weekend who had been asked by their hotel to pay again for their stay – they had booked online, believing that they were dealing with the hotel directly throughout the transaction. They had never heard of Strawberry World until they arrived.
The Algarve Resident seems to have the latest information reporting that:
“In a document sent to the Associação de Hotelaria de Portugal (AHP), Portugal’s hotels association, by the “Administration” of Strawberry World, – Agência de Viagens e Turismo, Lda, which the Algarve Resident had access to, the tour operator admitted to financial difficulties and stated that the company had initiated a revitalisation programme (Processo Especial de Revitalização), with the Tribunal Judicial do Funchal “to ensure the payment of all existing debts”.
“However, collaboration from creditors is needed in order to avoid the insolvency of the company. We hope to see the company’s operations returning to normal,” said the statement.
A high-profile company affected by Strawberry World’s lack of payments has been the Pestana Group, under the brands Pestana Hotels and Resorts and Pousadas de Portugal.
In an online statement, the Pestana Group says that it now considers all reservations made for stays at their units, contracted through Strawberry World websites, cancelled. “This is due to the fact that Strawberry World has failed to comply with payments due to the Pestana Group, not having paid any reservations,” it stated.
Pedro Fernandez, director of hotel operations in Portugal for the Pestana Group, confirmed to the Algarve Resident that “70% of cases involving Strawberry World bookings happened in Madeira and 30% in the Algarve”. Madeira has been the destination most affected by the Strawberry World case.
Fernandez continued: “When we became aware that Strawberry World was having difficulty meeting payment commitments, we immediately cancelled our contract with them.”
The Pestana Group also states online that they have consistently and repeatedly asked Strawberry World to inform their clients in a timely manner of the cancellation of their reservations, in order to avoid any disappointments upon arrival. Pedro Fernandez said clients would be advised to complain to Strawberry World, request reimbursement or cancel credit card payments.
Many outraged clients of Strawberry World are now protesting using online forums about the disappointing situation they find themselves in.
Whilst in the UK, for example, tour operators must be affiliated with ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents) and bonded with insurance to protect customers, in Portugal APAVT (Associação de Agências de Viagens e Turismo) confirmed that it is not a legal requirement for travel companies to be associated to them.
A source from the APAVT said: “We do not know the exact details surrounding the Strawberry World case nor are we aware of the type of contract the tour operator has with the hotels. However, generally speaking, hotels should be obliged to accommodate the guests without asking for any payment.
“Affected holidaymakers should complain to the Direcção Regional de Turismo da Madeira or Turismo de Portugal in mainland Portugal. The tour operator should hold an insurance policy to protect customers.”
Strawberry World appears to operate a series of websites, however the majority were not operating at the time of going to press.
The Algarve Resident tried to obtain a comment from Strawberry World to establish if they are bonded through an official tourist body in order to ensure that holidaymakers can claim through their insurance, however direct contact details for the company were not available.