Provisional liquidators have been appointed to four companies in the USIT student travel group, after the Covid-19 crisis caused their collapse.

The companies employed 149 people. 

The High Court was told that many spring and summer travel bookings as well as tours for students and school groups have been cancelled and new bookings have collapsed.

Senior Counsel Rossa Fanning said this caused a cash flow crisis leaving the companies insolvent and unable to pay their debts. 

The companies had received booking deposits and pre-payments from a large number of customers.  

Around €1.2m is owed to pre-booked customers, including around 3,000 students who paid deposits of €300 or more for travel to the US this summer. 

Mr Fanning said USIT Ireland is a bonded travel agent and that may allow for refunds of deposits.

Travel insurance or credit card companies may provide "an alternative route" for refunds he said. 

The companies cannot raise the €3.3m needed to continue to trade through to October 2020 and the directors had decided there was no option but to wind them up.  

Mr Fanning said this was entirely a result of the catastrophic impact on international travel of the Covid 19 pandemic.

Until a few weeks ago, he said all but one of the companies had been largely profitable.  

The court heard the company was unable to ensure employees would be paid until the end of March.

Mr Justice Mark Sanfey granted orders allowing for the appointment of Kieran Wallace and Andrew O'Leary of KPMG as provisional liquidators to the four companies.  

The judge said he like hundreds of thousands of Irish students had availed of the services of USIT a long time ago and he said it was sad that it had come to this.