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Customers who lost money to tour operator get offer for help

Theresa Mannucci vowed she was done with bus tours after the company organizing her last trip suddenly shuttered its doors, canceled her trip and took her money.

The 83-year-old Hudson woman was fuming, out $295, and out of a trip to New Orleans with a group of widows.

But now she is reconsidering.

Since Hollywood Tours Florida Inc., based in Spring Hill, declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy last year, leaving more than 400 customers in the lurch, another company has stepped in and offered to help some of those owed money. Mayflower Tours, a national tour operator with an office in St. Petersburg, is offering to cover each traveler's payments, up to $500.

"I'm thinking about taking it," Mannucci said. "I'm willing to try anything once."

For Mayflower, it's a good deed — and good business.

The trip Mannucci is thinking about is $899, so she would end up also spending some of her own money.

Colette Florido, the general manager in Mayflower's St. Petersburg office, said the company decided to help Hollywood Tours' customers after seeing news reports about the bankruptcy.

"It's upsetting to us because we know that travelers are affected and it affects the tour operator industry in general," Florido said. "It gives them a sour taste."

She said Mayflower has contacted all of the households that lost money to Hollywood Tours — roughly 450, which she says are owed about $150,000 total.

About 50 customers have taken Mayflower up on the deal, she said.

Florido said Hollywood's customers were upset they couldn't find a way to recoup their money, but were glad someone stepped in.

"It's not something that they had anticipated," she said.

With help from Mayflower, Hudson resident Janet Cox, 63, plans to take a New Year's trip to Savannah, Ga.

"I thought it was very nice of them to do this," Cox said. "They didn't have to. I could have just been out the $295, and that was the end of it."

Danny Valentine can be reached at dvalentine@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1432.

Customers who lost money to tour operator get offer for help 04/08/13 [Last modified: Monday, April 8, 2013 8:27pm]
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