‘Where cash refunds can be given, they should be given’
A spokesperson from Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) shares with Travel And Tour World details of their campaign, refund policies and how resilient the travel industry is from crisis.
Travel And Tour World: What is Save Future Travel campaign ? How has the response been?
ABTA Spokesperson: We are calling for widespread industry support to ‘Save Future Travel’ by asking individuals to visit the site and email their local MP. Supporters should use social media to contact their local MPs and Government Ministers using #savefuturetravel and call for action.
We first called for urgent Government intervention to support the travel industry and take action around refunds and other measures several weeks ago. Since then, the Association has held discussions with and written to relevant Government departments and the Prime Minister multiple times. The Government promise to ‘do whatever it takes’ to protect businesses and jobs, the travel industry is still waiting for action.
Since the campaign launched, nearly 24,000 letters have been sent and ABTA is in contact with a number of MPs about the campaign.
Travel And Tour World: How do you think the travel agents who are delaying or refusing cancelled package holiday refunds should be dealt with?
ABTA Spokesperson: It is simply impossible at this time of crisis for many travel businesses to provide cash refunds in 14 days, as they are waiting for refunds themselves from airlines and hotels that have closed . Our guidance on the website sets out a series of options for customers to discuss with their travel providers, such as amending their holiday to another date or accepting a Refund Credit Note instead of an immediate cash refund. This Refund Credit Note can be used to rearrange a holiday at a later date and, in the meantime, it is protected by ABTA/ ATOL if the original booking had that protection, so customers would be reimbursed if the travel company failed financially. When a travel company is able to provide a cash refund, we are asking customers to please be patient. They are dealing with a huge number of customers, and with offices closed and staff working from home, it’s a real challenge.
Where cash refunds can be given, they should be given – that’s in the customer’s interest and in the company’s interest. But on the other hand we recognise that there is an obligation of a refund at some point and where ABTA Members are absolutely refusing that, we will speak to them, we will advise them, we will guide them; but if they continue to deny that obligation we will have to take action under our Code of Conduct. That’s not something we want to do, we know companies are in severe distress at the moment, but in the interest of fairness to other ABTA Members and to customers, we feel that’s the right thing to do.
Travel And Tour World: What will be the road to recovery for the online travel agents and suggestions to avoid large layoffs in the travel sector?
ABTA Spokesperson: Immediate ministerial intervention will be critical to ensure that otherwise healthy businesses are not forced to close, and thousands of jobs can be protected. Our Government asks are -Temporary changes to the Package Travel Regulations – to protect both businesses and consumers. Financial liquidity and employment support – including changes to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and accessibility of Government backed loans for businesses of all sizes Appropriate responses by financial payments companies – in particular, the actions of Merchant Acquirers, and separately credit card companies in relation to the application of charge backs.
Travel And Tour World: How is the travel industry geared to prepare a post Covd-19 world?
ABTA Spokesperson: The travel industry is typically really resilient, it’s used to dealing with crisis. It has dealt with terrorism incidents, tsunamis and volcanic ash clouds. The difference here is the scale of it and the immediacy of it and we need to try and make sure that what we do now is thinking about the future as well, that we will still have a travel industry at the end of all of this. In other countries around Europe – France, Italy, Belgium, Spain, Germany, The Netherlands and Denmark – they’re all taking measures, particularly around the issue of refunds, to make sure that consumer protections are still in place, that customers still maintain their rights to refunds, but that businesses are given a bit more time to give those refunds.