UK travel agents are being warned they could be “saddled” with the obligations of overseas travel organisers come 1 January if the operators do not comply with UK regulations.
Speaking at TTG’s Agenda 2021 conference today (which continues tomorrow and remains open for registration), Fox Williams travel partner Rhys Griffiths explained that while currently UK travel agents selling package holidays of organisers based outside of the UK don’t need to worry about most of the obligations under the Package Travel Regulations (because those obligations sit with the organiser), there is a risk with the end of the Brexit transition period.
The status quo will remain, but the risk from 1 January is that unless those EU or rest-of-the-world-based organisers have made arrangements to comply with the UK Package Travel Regulations and have arranged UK insolvency protection – so have obtained an Atol or one of the three other alternatives for non-flight packages – then the UK travel agent gets “saddled with the obligations and responsibilities of the organiser”.
“So it’s important to make sure UK travel agents effectively police the companies that they are representing,” said Griffiths.
“And the onus is put on the agent to make sure the non-UK organiser has managed to get itself compliant and if those aren’t compliant.”
He added: “It’s more bureaucracy, cost and back-office stuff which is just paperwork and very time-consuming – nobody really wants to do it and it’s all a consequence of Brexit.”
Griffiths further warned travel companies to be proactive in their communications around what customers should expect when travelling next year with regards Brexit.
“I’m seeing much less concern around Brexit issues, but there is a need to provide information to customers on what to expect after the end of this year, because they are going to be asking whether they can still travel, are the passport rules changing, can they still hire a car.
“So what we’re seeing is clients going out there proactively with FAQs on their websites, using a lot of what the government has already produced to prepare information to give to customers. “Communicate about what sort of things are the customer’s responsibility, and what sort of things sit with the travel company.
“There’s loads of information out there. It’s probably going to change over the next two weeks but keep an eye on it.
“The government’s Brexit website has certain sections geared towards travel and travel in Europe.
“It’s a case of putting all that stuff together in a way that is digestible for customers.”
Resister for Agenda 2021 at the dedicated webpage.