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Families lose out as holiday booking company collapses

Thousands of families who have paid for summer holidays in Ireland may be left high and dry after one of the country's biggest online booking agents went bust.

Selfcatering.ie went out of business last night -- affecting families who have pre-paid for accommodation and those who own the accommodation out of pocket.

Self-catering industry in this country is a huge arm of the tourist industry and one in four overseas visitors to Ireland also stay in this type of accommodation.

Last night an automated email said it was "with deep regret that after 14 years in business, Selfcatering.ie announces that it has ceased trading with immediate effect".

It asked customers to "please appreciate that this was a last resort with every effort made by the company to prevent this situation and it is with deep regret the company has ceased trading".

It is understood the company, which is based at Rosslare Harbour, in Co Wexford, had already taken payments for holidays which have yet to be taken. It is now unlikely that these bookings will be honoured or a refund given.

One holiday home owner in Co Kerry said: "This will be devastating for families who have saved up for a holiday but also for property owners it's a kick in the teeth at a time when the sector is already struggling.

"Customers will have paid for their holidays in full but the property owners won't see a cent of that and can't be expected to honour those bookings.

"For some homeowners it will mean that they have weeks in peak season booked but for which they'll receive no payment."

Selfcatering.ie has been in operation for 14 years.

In 2007 the then chief executive, Mary Power, spoke of the massive rise in sales the company was experiencing during the boom: "We have exceeded all expectations for sales of our properties."

csheehy@herald.ie