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A tourist enjoys the sun at a resort in Bavaro, Dominican Republic. Conquest Vacations, which set up tours to Canada, the United States, the Caribbean, Mexico and Europe, is shutting down after 37 years. ((Eduardo Munoz/Reuters))

Conquest Vacations said Wednesday it is shutting down its tour operations effective immediately.

What you can do if your tour operator goes out of business:

  • Customers who booked their vacation using a credit card should contact their credit card company for a refund for services not rendered.
  • Travellers who opted for travel insurance should check if the coverage includes "operator default," which provides reimbursement should a tour operator or air carrier go out of business.
  • The Canadian Transportation Agency accepts complaints from consumers dissatisfied with the air portion of a travel package. Complaints about the land portion of the trip must be dealt with by provincial and territorial authorities dealing with travel.

In a statement published on its website, the Toronto-based company blamed several factors for the decision.

"Unfortunately, this has been a result of overcapacity and price [wars] among the major tour operators, unrealistic and unreasonable demands by the credit card processing companies, credit squeeze and economic turmoil in recent months making it impossible for companies like Conquest to continue in business even after weathering many storms over the past 37 years," the company said.

Customers who booked and paid using cash or a cheque through a travel agency are being directed to contact their agency about refunds or claims.

The company said travellers who booked directly with Conquest Vacations will be contacted. They can also email the company with a booking reference number.

Customers who paid for their future travel using a credit card should contact their credit card institution for a refund.

In business since 1972, Conquest served destinations in Canada, the United States, the Caribbean, Mexico and Europe.

David McCaig, the president of the Association of Canadian Agencies, called it "a very sad day for a very reputable company."

McCaig pointed out that Conquest's closing is a different situation from some past bankruptcies in the travel business, which left travellers stranded.

"A closing means that they are able to protect all their customers in destination, and they'll be able to bring their customers home, and that's a very important thing to compare to other bankruptcies of tour operators that have happened in the past."

Randolph de Gooyer of Maritime Travel of Halifax said at least one couple from Sydney, N.S., is stranded by the move.

"This is early hours yet, but our understanding is that Conquest has made arrangements to bring those people back to Canada, and we're trying to confirm that. If that's not the case, then we'll make alternate arrangements for them," he said.

Few vacationers from Nova Scotia are affected, since Conquest pulled out of Halifax a few years ago.

Lesley Keyter of Calgary's The Travel Lady Agency said it was inevitable that one of Canada's discount agencies would close. She said the prices of seats that some vacation companies have been offering created an unrealistic market for travellers and companies to sustain.

She said the industry will come out "because you have the strong players that emerge from this unscathed because they've got the depth and the customer loyalty."