Travel agents are having to deal with “irate and aggressive” customers due to the dispute between travel organisers and the government over travel to amber list countries.
Prime minister Boris Johnson and government ministers have this week urged UK residents not to travel to amber countries, such as Spain, Greece and France.
But travel trade associations, such as Abta, have insisted that it is still legal to travel to these destinations and customers do not automatically have the right to cancel these trips.
Graeme Brett, from Westoe Travel, who helped to set up the new Target travel agent campaign group, said: “Travel agents are stuck in the middle and having to deal with irate customers.
“Members have reported customers becoming irate and aggressive after trying to cancel holidays to amber destinations but the operators are saying that the holiday is still operating."
Brett added: “It is clear that there is a safety risk to agents from some customers if there is not clear guidance on from the government, tour operators and the trade bodies.”
Target, which now has nearly 900 members, is advising agents to check their professional indemnity insurance if they are selling holidays to amber destinations.
A survey of Target members found only 23% of agents were currently booking amber destinations, while 55% were only accepting bookings for green list countries, domestic holidays and departures in 2022 and 2023.
Target co-founder Jill Waite, from Pole Travel, added: “This is an absolute minefield. The trade bodies issuing statements saying it’s OK to go to amber destinations on holiday is not helping. Customers are quoting the prime minister and cabinet ministers’ statements to members.
“Customers are not going to accept that a trade body is correct and the prime minister is wrong.
“We need Abta and the trade bodies to legally challenge the government and have one message to customers that they can or cannot travel to amber countries for holidays.”
An Abta spokesperson said it was “raising concerns” with the government about the confusion over travelling to amber list countries.
“As travel is no longer illegal, travel companies will make their own decisions as to whether or not they will operate or sell package holidays to amber list countries taking into account Foreign Office (FCDO) advice and any entry restrictions or requirements for UK visitors which would significantly affect the delivery of the package,” said the spokesperson.
“For customers that are already booked, it is the status of that Foreign Office advice and any entry restrictions or requirements that will determine the right to a refund should they choose not to travel.
“As already reported, we are also challenging the adequacy of the government’s financial support for the travel sector, where we have issued a ‘letter before claim’ ahead of deciding whether to launch a judicial review.”
Brett and Waite joined TTG to discuss the formation of Target last week.