Westoe Travel boss Graeme Brett has hailed the power of travel trade Facebook group Travel Gossip after forcing a hotel seeking to profit from the demise of Super Break to back down on its demands.
Brett posted on the group this week, which has nearly 18,000 members, claiming his team called a four-star hotel in London to sort out a client’s £435 booking through Super Break, only for the hotel to refuse to honour the price and demand £985 to rebook.
“I asked for the reservations manager and explained I would name and shame the hotel on Travel Gossip, which all travel agents follow, and that I would expect no agents would want to book that hotel again,” said Brett. “After a very brief pause, they agreed to honour the price.”
Upon hearing of Brett’s triumph, Travel Gossip owner Bruce Martin told TTG: “Agents tend to use Travel Gossip to find information and help secure sales so it was brilliant to hear the collective power of Travel Gossip being used to solve these unfortunate post-sales issues.
"I love hearing how Travel Gossip helps people in the travel industry, it makes it all worth it.”
Super Break collapsed last week after parent Malvern Group ceased operations. Malvern had been seeking a buyer for the 49% of the business owned by Cox & Kings (India) on account of the historic Indian operator’s own financial troubles.
Cox & Kings (India) had its Iata licence suspended in late June, prompting Malvern’s decision to seek a buyer. However, Malvern said last Thursday (1 August) the situation had “deteriorated rapidly” resulting in Cox & Kings (India) withdrawing all further funding for Malvern’s operations.
Its Super Break and LateRooms.com operations employed more than 250 people across offices in York and Manchester. Super Break failed with around 20,000 forward bookings, concerning 53,000 passengers.
It later came to light that while Super Break’s flight-inclusive packages were covered under the Atol scheme and domestic packages involving coach or rail were covered by its Abta bonding, the operator – according to Abta – had chosen not to cover accommodation-only bookings.
However, the operator and Abta has come in for criticism from agents for a lack of transparency over which bookings were protected, with Super Break using Abta’s branding on its promotional materials.
Abta has since warned agents “never to assume” accommodation-only bookings are protected on account of there being no legal obligation for operators to do so, even if they are Abta members.
Speaking to TTG on Tuesday (6 August), Brett described the situation as a “shambles”. “At the moment, we’re expecting a net loss of £5,200,” he said.
“We worked Thursday night [1 August] until 10pm and every day since until 10pm. All of our 133 bookings, affecting 623 customers, have been dealt with, but we have lost two bookings – one with a total value of £1,687.”
Brett said while customers had been appreciative of the agency’s efforts, it was now struggling to complete Abta’s claim forms which he said were “unnecessarily long and time-consuming”, impacting the business’s cash flow.
“As we have rebooked the customers affected, we have paid twice for all bookings and this impacts cash flow,” said Brett.
“Fortunately, our business is strong enough to withstand that but Abta need to speed up the payment of claims as many business could face cash flow problems.”