The Advantage Travel Partnership is leading calls for a sector-wide 48-hour flexible booking pledge, and plans to lobby government for a corresponding guarantee that it will give the industry ample notice of any changes in a destination’s quarantine status.
Launched on Thursday (6 August), Advantage’s Flexi Pledge – Book with Confidence campaign is designed to encourage more operators and suppliers to offer greater flexibility on summer 2020 bookings to help boost consumer confidence and encourage bookings.
“This is a make or break moment in time for the travel industry," said Advantage chief executive Julia Lo Bue-Said.
Advantage wants travel businesses to offer consumers 48 hours to change their booking free of charge if their holiday is impacted by new government advice on a particular destination.
It will also lobby government to commit to providing the sector 48 hours’ notice of any plans to revoke a destination’s quarantine-free travel corridor owing to any spikes in coronavirus infection to avoid a repeat of the hugely disruptive decision on 25 July to end Spain’s travel corridor with just a few hours’ notice.
The consortium said the decision to take Spain off the UK’s tacit "safe travel" list has resulted in a "surge of cancellations" and a "marked decline in consumer confidence to book".
"After a significant period of stagnation during months of lockdown, this recent development is a further blow to an industry struggling to survive, further highlighted by this week’s job losses and store closures," said Advantage.
Following a "critical decline" in consumer confidence, Advantage said it had undertaken a "full audit" of its supplier partnerships, including airlines, hotels, operators and ground transport providers to asses their flexible booking policies.
Advantage described the findings as "mixed" with radically different options for consumers, compounded by "confusing" terms and conditions that depend on a wide range of factors, including timeframes and charges to change bookings.
"There is clearly a huge degree of flexibility available, but consumers just don’t know about the options," said Lo Bue-Said. "We need to come together to communicate to consumers there are flexible options that won’t dent their pocket.
"We are issuing a rally call today for all travel suppliers, whether they are focused on leisure or business travel, to consolidate and simplify their flexibility policies.
"We want to speak as one industry and say to the consumer we are on your side and we have upped our game to make it easier and stress free to change your booking should your destination become unavailable due to Covid-19 issues.”
Lo Bue-Said added: “We believe if consumers had 48 hours’ notice to change their booking to an alternative destination or time, they would be more inclined to retain their booking instead of cancelling.
"Equally, if the UK government commits to providing the industry with 48 hours’ notice instead of four hours, the industry will be infinitely better equipped to engage with clients to satisfy their re-booking requirements and retain that all important booking for this year.”