For many travelers this summer, vacations will be memorable for all the wrong reasons - the tail end of the economic crisis has seen dozens of travel firms and airlines around the world go bust, leaving passengers without a vacation or stranded.

This week, around 60,000 British consumers were affected by the collapse of Kiss Holidays, the third British travel company to go under this month and the 13th this year, with some analysts warning that some other companies could fold before the year is out.

At the beginning of August, Mexico's largest airline, Mexicana, announced it had filed for bankruptcy, blaming the swine flu outbreak which had a severe impact on Mexican tourism, although it is continuing to operate with a reduced schedule.

In July, Swedish travel firm Flyhome collapsed, and a number of skiing holiday firms have already ceased trading, with analysts predicting that the number of ski vacation packages available this winter will be down by around 20 percent.

Although many of the most recent casualties have been smaller companies, the UK-based Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO) hit back at "media scaremongering" August 18, saying that small operators are no more likely to fail than larger ones.

"Being large offers no guarantees that a company will not collapse - in fact, the old adage, 'the larger they are, the harder they fall' often applies," said AITO chairman Derek Moore.

Although some travel insurers will cover passengers if an operator becomes insolvent, policies vary and it's advised to check with your insurer.

British travelers that book using an Air Travel Organisers' Licensing (ATOL)- listed company are automatically covered for refunds or repatriation, and better protection is often offered in the case of package holidays.

Travelers within Europe are also protected by the European Union, with package vacations again receiving better protection - the European Commission's Passenger Rights website (below) has further information.

In the US, consumer protection is considerably weaker, although consumers who pay using a credit card may be able to get their money back (this often applies in other countries as well).

Some Canadian travelers are protected through independent compensation funds such as Ontario's Travel Industry Compensation Fund (TICO), if their operator is registered.

http://ec.europa.eu/transport/passenger-rights/en/index.html
http://www.aito.com
http://www.atol.org.uk/
http://www.tc.gc.ca/flightrights

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