stern research: Tour operator in distress: insolvency administrator appointed for itravel subsidiary

The Cologne luxury tour operator itravel and its charismatic managing director Axel Schmiegelow have been in the headlines for months.

stern research: Tour operator in distress: insolvency administrator appointed for itravel subsidiary

The Cologne luxury tour operator itravel and its charismatic managing director Axel Schmiegelow have been in the headlines for months. Since at least the summer of 2023, complaints from angry customers complaining about flopped trips have been increasing in online portals. Some had booked supposed dream trips with the Internet provider for tens of thousands of euros, but according to their own statements, they discovered, for example in Mauritius or the Maldives, that itravel had not paid for their hotel. Itravel boss Axel Schmiegelow has been in custody since the beginning of April. Shortly thereafter, his company's website was shut down. And many customers are now wondering whether they will ever see their money again.

The Cologne District Court has now made a decision for a subsidiary of Schmiegelow's widespread group of companies, which could potentially shed light on the group's financial situation. The court appointed a provisional insolvency administrator for the itravel subsidiary called Inspiring Travel Club Family GmbH. Like most of the other companies in the group, the Cologne company is a subsidiary of the holding company itravel Group SA based in Luxembourg. According to the commercial register, Inspiring Travel Club Family GmbH arranges trips. At the same time, she is the owner of another itravel company, which in turn handled payment transactions for customers of the itravel group and salary transfers to itravel employees.

The Cologne District Court appointed Cologne lawyer Philip Schober as the provisional insolvency administrator. Schober made it clear to stern that the insolvency proceedings for Inspiring Travel Club Family GmbH had not yet begun. “The court has instructed me to check whether there is enough capital available to open insolvency proceedings,” Schober told Stern.

In other words: Schober now has to find out how much money is still in the tour operator's business accounts and whether it is enough to pay him as insolvency administrator. Among other things, he is allowed to collect the company's bank balances. Schmiegelow, on the other hand, is only allowed to dispose of his company's assets with the consent of the insolvency administrator.

But is there still any wealth left? "I'm trying to get an overview of the company's economic situation," says insolvency administrator Schober. If he doesn't find enough "mass", the company could possibly be liquidated without insolvency proceedings.

A difficult question could possibly be for the insolvency administrator as to which assets should be assigned to which itravel company. According to the commercial register, the German itravel companies appear to have their headquarters at the same address in Cologne-Ossendorf. Itravel had already vacated the office in this building weeks ago. The Luxembourg companies also operate in the commercial register at an address where, according to stern research, itravel no longer even has a mailbox.

It is difficult to say what consequences the current insolvency proceedings could have for itravel's customers. Basically, a possible insolvency of the itravel companies could not necessarily be bad news for customers. Customers of package holidays are insured against insolvency via a so-called security certificate. “This security certificate is certainly the best asset consumers have now,” says Karolina Wojtal, head of the European Consumer Center in Germany.

However, the security certificate is issued to another itravel subsidiary, itravel Luxembourg S.à.r.l. based in Luxembourg. She is listed as the tour operator on invoices from itravel customers that are available to Stern. In order for customers to be able to take advantage of insolvency insurance, the itravel Luxembourg S.à.r.l. would have to. be declared bankrupt.

In January 2024, the Cologne District Court had already appointed a provisional insolvency administrator for another itravel subsidiary, itravel Software

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