Disgraced travel agency Priority Escapes hints at comeback amid fraud allegations

Managing director Francois Swart said he was investigating a turnaround plan for Priority Escapes.

Francois Swart, the managing director of disgraced travel agency Priority Escapes, has shown no inclination to refund clients after they paid him for Maldives holidays that he wasn’t able to provide. But he has indicated, via a statement posted on the door of his abandoned offices, the possibility of a business comeback, with advisors and potential investors mulling over a last-ditch revival strategy.

The Citizen visited Swart’s offices at the Leslie Park Office block, near Fourways, Johannesburg, only to find the office space cleared out and the doors locked, with two printed notices stuck to it. Security guards informed journalists that Priority Escapes had placed its notice a week before. Shortly afterwards, people arrived to clear out the offices.

Notices on the door

In the first notice, Swart addresses the status of the company.

“We confirm that our business removed all marketing material, including social media pages, and our website on 12 August 2023. We also confirm that we will temporarily no longer take new reservations. As a result, our office will be temporarily closed and staff will not be on duty.

“We have notified all customers who have upcoming reservations of the status of the business. These steps were taken as the business was no longer able to meet its financial obligations.”

ALSO READ: Clients furious after Priority Escapes travel agency echoes Hello Darlings scam

Then, surprisingly, Swart mentions the possibility of a comeback. “Consequently, we are investigating the viability of a turnaround plan with advisers and potential investors.

“We confirm that the business has engaged with business rescue advisors [and] we undertake to keep all customers informed of the outcome,” he said.

The notices placed on the doors outside the Priority Escapes office. Image: Devina Haripersad


Although the company did not say whether any refunds have been paid, the notice provided an email address for these claims.

ALSO READ: Furious holiday makers call for ‘Hello Darlings’ CEO’s head after grabbing millions and ghosting clients

Swart also assured customers and suppliers that the company is working to find a solution to the matter.

However, this attempt at reassurance has landed with a resounding thud on customers who feel they have been swindled, and continue to call for Swart’s arrest.

Police spokesperson Col Dimakatso Nevhuhulwi told SowetanLIVE that a fraud case has been opened against Swart, but no arrest has been made yet.

Affordable holidays

The Johannesburg-based travel agency, which offered alluringly affordable Maldives holidays, has been accused of pocketing around R10 million from unsuspecting holidaymakers.

The company described itself as the country’s “only” Maldives specialists, in that it had offered access to direct flights from South Africa to the Maldives.

Francois Swart, the Managing Director or Priority Escapes. Picture: priorityescapes.com

In a bid to enhance its trustworthiness, the company bolstered its credibility by using celebrity endorsements, featuring notable figures such as Thando Thabethe and Zozibini Tunzi.

In August, the company sent an email declaring its incapacity to meet its “financial obligations”, leaving many customers in a state of exasperation.

Swart, the director and proprietor of Priority Escapes, communicated that the travel company had reached a point where it could no longer honor its financial commitments to both clients and service providers.