Abta has advised agents that the financial protection of accommodation-only bookings “should never be assumed” after some agents complained of a lack of clarity following Super Break’s failure.
Super Break ceased trading alongside LateRooms.com on Thursday (1 August) after parent Malvern Group was unable to find a buyer.
The operator failed with around 20,000 forward bookings, which consisted of mainly domestic or non Atol-protected bookings.
While flight and accommodation bookings are protected under the Atol scheme and other transport and accommodation bookings by Abta, the association confirmed Super Break had “chosen not to protect” hotel-only bookings.
This was despite Super Break stating on its hotel brochure, seen by TTG, that it was a “proud member of Abta and an Atol licence holder, meaning you can rest assured knowing you’re covered”.
Many agents have taken to social media since Super Break’s failure to vent their frustration over the situation.
Tony Mann, director of Idle Travel, told TTG he would look to either rebook impacted clients or absorb the cost, to the tune of around £300.
Mann said he felt “lucky” to only be faced with such a potential bill, adding: “If this had happened last year – we would be looking at thousands.”
“The handling of this and the communication for agents has been a complete and utter mess and is just embarrassing for us as an industry,” he said.
“If we as agents aren’t given the right information as soon as something like this happens to help our clients, then we aren’t giving them the value they deserve – it defeats the point of even booking with us and hurts our industry no end. It is incredibly frustrating.”
Gary Lewis, chief executive of The Travel Network Group, said the “lack of clarity” around “Abta suppliers [having] a choice on how they protect agents does not reflect well on us as an industry”.
“Regrettably, a good number of our members have been impacted by the failure and all are working hard to assist customers who are either on their holiday with Super Break or due to travel, while at the same time having to cope with the challenges that such a failure has had on agents – specifically where Abta is passing back responsibility for accommodation-only and also back to the credit cards, avoiding financial responsibility directly,” Lewis said.
“It is disappointing that Super Break’s failure will have a large financial impact on Abta agents when they have all bought accommodation-only from an Abta supplier.”
In response, an Abta spokesperson said the organisation had not required accommodation-only sales to be protected “for over 10 years”, insisting there was “no legal requirement” to protect that style of booking or any others which involve just a single travel element.
The spokesperson said offering additional financial protection around such products would be "an entirely commercial decision" for the travel seller itself.
“We make it very clear on our website, in our materials and other communications that not all sales are protected. We also have a programme of proactively monitoring member websites, and in particular statements about financial protection, and will investigate any complaints about brochures and websites if it is alleged that they are misleading,” she said.
“It should never be assumed that accommodation-only bookings are financially protected. All accommodation-only bookings, booked either directly with a hotel or through intermediaries, are generally unprotected apart from where the customer paid by credit or debit card.
“If in doubt agents should ask the company they are booking with directly before proceeding.”