Ambassadors Group, which arranges the popular People to People tours/home stays for middle- and high-school students, is laying off staff and canceling 2016 trips.
Ambassadors Group, the Spokane-based education travel company that arranges popular People to People tours, is closing and all of its employees will be laid off.
No student trips will be canceled this year since the peak travel season is waning, the company said in a news release. Deposits for 2016 trips will be refunded, the release said.
CEO Philip Livingston said in an email that the company would have no comment beyond the news release.
Ambassadors has operated People to People from Spokane since 1967, offering middle-school and high-school students the opportunity to travel the world and stay with local families. The program was conceived in 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
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Ambassadors Group spun off from Ambassadors International in 2002 and handled student travel; the other company handled corporate group travel. At one time, brothers Peter and John Ueberroth were major shareholders.
But the company struggled when student travel plunged as a result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and global recession. It reported a 2014 loss of $17.5 million, compared with a loss of $7.1 million the previous year. Big investor groups demanded changes. A showplace headquarters on the West Plains was sold for $9 million in November and the company moved to leased space in the Holley Mason building downtown.
“I suspect they were trying to sell (the company) and it couldn’t be done,” said Craig Hart, president and chief investment officer at Hart Capital Management in Spokane, a longtime local stock observer.
“It’s too bad,” he said of Ambassadors Group’s demise. “For all the employees … and the heritage of the company.”
Ambassadors’ news release said layoffs will begin July 27. The company will close by the end of 2015.
At the end of 2014, the company employed 155 people, according to its earnings report. Sixty people were laid off in February.
The release said declining revenues and smaller numbers of student travelers drove the decision to close.
Executives “explored strategic alternatives and marketing models … (but) determined that an orderly closing of its business is the prudent course on behalf of shareholders,” it said.