Sales Director Harold Burke has penned a letter regarding the importance of travel industry regulation in order to protect consumers. Please take a read, share on social platforms and get in touch if you have any questions.

Dear colleagues

A personal and open letter to the Association of Group Travel Organisers & The Coach Tourism Association and their members.

The Industry and group organisers need to be wary!

As an industry I am proud of what we do, as responsible tour operators, to ensure we work within the guidelines of the European Package Travel Regulations, which are in the best interest of our customers, without whom none of us would be in business.

As we are all aware this regulation applies to the sale of a package to a consumer and all group organisers should know that a package constitutes a booking that involves two or more travel elements, such as the flight and hotel, or the hotel and transport for example.

The regulation requires operators like ourselves, selling the package to a consumer, to have guarantees in place that should they, or any of their suppliers cease to trade, the customer gets a full refund of monies paid or the holiday they purchased. It also covers repatriation if the customer is on holiday.

Recent events, however, should act as an alarm bell to our industry and group organisers.

The first concern is that there are still a significant number of group leaders who are booking a ‘package’ holiday for their members by making independent arrangements directly with the accommodation and the transport suppliers without being aware they are in breach of the EU Directive on what constitutes as ‘booking a package holiday’.

In such circumstances their members money is also at risk. We continue to see the failure of independent coach operators and hotels which, in some instances, have resulted in groups losing any deposits or pre-payments they have made. The likelihood of having this money returned is minimal as there is little or no financial protection in place for them in cases where they book directly with a business that is not bonded.

As an industry I believe it is essential that we continue to ensure that associations, group organisers and their members are made fully aware of the legal and financial risks they face when not booking a ‘fully bonded package holiday’.

Of even greater concern to me, however, is the recent failure of a tour operator in the West Midlands. This operator appears to have been trading without a bond in place despite their brochures assuring their customers they were financially protected.

I find this to be quite shocking and worrying having heard the stories from their customers, many of whom are pensioners, who have been told they may not get their money back.

This is not just a case of whether this tour operator’s customers will get some recompense in the future. It is a more a question of how could a tour operator have possibly been allowed to trade making the reported, false brochure claims, and without a financial bond in place!

As an industry we should all be deeply concerned about this situation and ask ourselves who actually regulates independent operators and questions the integrity of their bonding and brochures?

Those of us who are members of recognised bodies, such as ABTA or BCH (Bonded Coach Holidays), know these bodies provide our customers with an independent means to question our financial status in this respect. But how undermining is it to our ‘book in confidence’ cause when tour operators are allowed to trade without a regulator ensuring they have adequate bonding in place?

I do hope this particular case is isolated but it is one too many in my eyes and we need to question what can be done in the interest of the consumer to ensure this does not happen again.

In what appears to be the absence of any effective regulating control, other than those of us who are members of recognised bodies, I would urge group organisers to proceed with caution. They should be taking steps to ensure they obtain evidence that the companies they are working with are fully compliant in every aspect of the EC Directive on Package Holidays and never take this information on face value as is the current case in question.

I hope our industry trade bodies and representatives will share my concern and that together we can take steps to ensure those in higher authority take measures to cover any loop holes. This is essential so that our customers can travel in confidence knowing that it will not be possible for a tour operator to trade in the future without having an adequate bond in place

 

Harold Burke
Sales Director –The UK Holiday Group                                                          14 February 2018

 

 

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