Travel agency "Labyrinth" began its activities in 1995. At that time, traveling abroad for tourists from our country was a rarity. Later, the company continued to expand the territory of its services to the public and improve the service for customers. In 2014, the tour operator began to have serious problems that led the company to a financial impasse. Huge lines of disgruntled people gathered at the address of the Labyrinth travel agency. Previously, the office was located in Moscow, on the street. Zander, d. 7, building 2A (metro "VDNH").
Among the countries where the Labyrinth travel agency sent customers, one could find common destinations for recreation: Turkey and Egypt. There were offers for lovers of the unknown: Nepal, Mauritius, Jamaica. Offers of the Labyrinth travel agency on last-minute tours were the most profitable in the tourist market.
Travel agency "Labyrinth" (according to customer reviews) offered an innovative form of online search and ordering tours on the site with the possibility of consultation with an employee of the company. The cameraman issued a newspaper telling about the news of the season for vacationing citizens and containing useful information for travelers. The company constantly came up with bonus programs and gave pleasant discounts, thereby increasing the loyalty of its customers.
Travel agency "Labyrinth" announced the suspension of activities on August 2, 2014, that is, in the midst of summer vacations of citizens of our country. According to preliminary information, at that moment there were 25 thousand Russian tourists abroad who had to somehow return to Russia. It was the largest catastrophic disaster in the history of the tourism business in our country. The high rating of the Labyrinth travel agency did not save her from unreliable partners, owners and financial failures.
Causes of the disaster
The financial disaster was due to the following reasons:
- A sharp decline in the purchasing power of the population due to the growth of the exchange rate.
- The unstable political and economic situation in the country.
- The prohibition of traveling abroad by military personnel and internal service personnel, which is advisory in nature.
- Financial conflict with the Orenburg Airlines airline, which suspended flights not paid for by the Ideal-Tour operator. According to payment orders, the tourist operator had to pay almost three billion rubles for the services rendered by tourists to the main carrier, Orenburg Airlines, for two years, starting from 2013 and ending with 2014, but in fact did not pay even two billion rubles.
Harbingers of disaster
Labyrinth Travel Company was not the first company on the tourism market to face financial problems in the summer season of 2014.
By the middle of summer 2014, a wave of bankruptcies reached an organized segment and major players. On July 16, the Neva company, operating on the market since 1999, announced the suspension of operations. The Neva operator declared it impossible to fulfill its financial obligations. At that time, several thousand clients of the company remained abroad, who needed to return to Russia.
Executives at Neva explained that over the past six months, sales of travel packages have fallen by twenty-five percent due to the recommended restrictions on travel by government officials and security officials and due to a general decline in the economic development of the state. The first factor influenced the company very strongly, since (according to analytical estimates), more than half of the tour operator’s turnover amounted to vacation contracts for employees of law enforcement agencies.
The next potential bankrupt was the Wind Rose operator and the St. Petersburg operator Expo-Tour.
Conclusions of the investigation
Investigators in the case of a financial fraud in a large Russian travel agency "Labyrinth" suspected the guilt of business owners. It was assumed that client funds could be withdrawn to Greece. Russian investigators sent an official request to the Greek law enforcement authorities for the provision of management reporting documents for Le Grand Travel and Elements SA. The companies that came under suspicion belonged to the business partner of the owners of the Labyrinth travel agency. Law enforcement officials suggested that the missing funds from tourists could be in the settlement accounts of designated firms. In total, one billion rubles was withdrawn from the Labyrinth travel agency. Le Grand Travel representatives claimed that the Labyrinth funds came exclusively to pay for hotel stays.
The main suspects
The main defendants in the criminal case in August 2014 were co-owners of the Labyrinth travel agency Mikhail Shamanov and Sergey Azarskov. Other co-owners of the company, Tatyana Zotova and Svetlana Baranovskaya, could also be involved in financial frauds.
According to investigators, in December 2013, Mikhail Shamanov and Sergey Azarskov persuaded the owners of the Ideal-Tour group to sell them a controlling stake and share in the authorized capital, received unlimited power over the companies and carried out a financial fraud to steal Labyrinth’s client funds "
According to law enforcement officials, Mikhail Shamanov and Sergey Azarskov knew about the company's growing debts to leading partners, including air travel, but continued to sell tourist packages, misleading the company's customers about the true financial situation of the company. The owners collected more than one hundred million rubles from tourists, but they did not intend to fulfill their obligations to them. As a result of the suspension of the operator’s activities, tens of thousands of Russian tourists suffered.
Punishment for crime
Mikhail Shamanov and Sergey Azarskov, owners of the Labyrinth tour operator, were put on the international wanted list and arrested in absentia. According to current data, Mikhail Shamanov is now in the UK, in London. Sergei Azarskov was detained on the border of Serbia and Montenegro and, at the request of the law enforcement agencies of our country, was brought to Russia.
A major round of financial crisis in the tourism services market has come to its logical conclusion. The crisis cost a lot to the tourism industry: many large tour operators stopped their work, and their owners became involved in major criminal cases.
In total, our country is currently investigating about ten administrative and criminal cases about the pyramids in the tourism business. The owners of the Neva, Windrose, Expo-Tour, Ideal-Tour, Labyrinth, “Wandering Wind” and others are suspected of financial fraud. Most of the owners and employees of bankrupt companies have fled, and therefore are on the federal and international wanted list.
The outgoing year was marked by a revival of the tourist services market. The number of tourist trips of our citizens abroad has increased. The longest and largest financial crisis in the history of the domestic tourism industry is ending. Not all companies survived it. Now 625 tour operators are officially registered.
The most popular holiday destinations in demand by travel agencies are the following.
Turkey is the most favorite holiday destination for citizens of our country. Turkey loves its service for every taste and budget. Everyone appreciates the quality service: youth companies, couples, lovers of loneliness. Huge territories of hotels, quality food, free beaches with sun loungers and deck chairs, a blue transparent sea, lots of sightseeing tours (water parks, historical places, protected areas) - all this calls tourists here again and again. Trips to beautiful Istanbul in spring are a new fashion destination in the tourism industry.
Spain is in the top five at Coral Travel. Picturesque beaches with white and black sand (Tenerife), the clear blue sea, rich seafood cuisine, perfect service and a huge number of sightseeing tours - this attracts tourists here. One trip to Barcelona can give so many emotions that a tourist will definitely want to come back here again.
China is a new trendy holiday destination. Everything is fine in China: ancient architecture, nature, top-level service.
Greece is the leader in summer reservations with many operators. The mild climate, the clear sea, the cozy atmosphere of the hotels, the safety on excursions - all this attracts tourists, especially those traveling with small children. The leaders in demand are Rhodes and the island of Crete, beloved by all.
Cyprus - an evergreen and sunny country is in second place for booking tours with TUI Russia. Ayia Napa resort is in great demand, loved by couples and youth companies.
In Bulgaria, the family resort Sunny Beach is in great demand. Clean sea, beach, comfortable hotels and quality service.
In Montenegro, tourists like to relax in Budva. And in Italy, in this cheerful country, beach destinations are most popular with our citizens in summer.