STA Travel has ceased operations in the UK, further illustrating the economic plight faced by many companies in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The company grew out of a student travel business and specialised in trips for young people, including gap years and volunteer projects.
Before the news was confirmed, STA Travel had more than 50 shops in the UK.
A brief statement on the STA Travel website read: “Please be assured that if you had a previous booking with us, or hold a live booking, you will receive further communication in the coming days.
“We are sorry for the inconvenience and the limited information available to you at this time.”
Around 500 jobs are likely to go following the closure.
A statement from ABTA added: “The news that STA Travel, which was a long-standing ABTA Member, has ceased trading will send a shockwave through the industry, bringing to life the very real pressures that travel is under at the moment.
“STA Travel will be a name that is familiar to most people who will have used them to travel or been aware of their name on the high street, and this distressing news will sadly affect the livelihoods of hundreds of employees.”
ABTA added many customers would have used STA Travel to book package holidays as well as individual air tickets.
The majority of holidays sold were flight inclusive packages, which are protected by ATOL, while scheduled airline ticket bookings should proceed as normal.
Non-flight-based packages will be protected, said ABTA.
“If customers booked a package holiday through STA Travel, and the holiday is provided by another tour operator, they will need to contact the tour operator who should be able to confirm that their booking will go ahead as normal,” said the spokesperson.
STA Travel, which originally stood for Student Travel Australia, but was later rebranded Student Travel Association, was founded in 1971, and specialises in long-haul, adventure and gap year travel.
The firm said: “Over recent months, the company took decisive measures to secure the business beyond Covid-19.
“However, sales have not picked up as anticipated, due to consumer uncertainties, further restrictions and renewed lock-down measures, which are expected to largely continue into 2021.”