Gold Medal and Travel 2 will insist upon being given customers’ contact details going forward, after they were unable to reassure clients for a week after Thomas Cook collapsed.
Speaking at the Abta Travel Convention in Tokyo, dnata B2B chief executive for Europe John Bevan said while the CAA in his view had done a good job of repatriating travellers, he had concerns over other manifestations of the failure.
“We were sat there with tens of thousands of bookings, where our clients had booked a package with Gold Medal for example through a Thomas Cook shop… it took over a week for us to get the data to contact those people to tell them their holiday was safe,” he said.
“The only thing they did on the CAA website was they said ‘if you booked with Thomas Cook consider your holiday cancelled, you’ll get a refund’.”
Bevan praised John de Vial (Abta’s head of financial protection) for eventually getting the Abta website changed to say that if you booked with a tour operator your holiday was “still OK”.
Bevan continued: “While we were trying to get this info out of the liquidators, talking to the CAA and Abta, we started to see that people were rebooking holidays so there were duplicate bookings.
“The airlines were helping us out with that.”
But Bevan said what he wanted addressed most was sharing of client information.
“Something we’re going to have to change going forward is that as an operator selling through an agent, the only information we get is the lead name. We don’t get any contact details.
“In the past agents were fearful of tour operators nicking their customer. Going forward, we’ll need an email address and a phone number. If we’d had that information on the Monday [Thomas Cook collapsed], we would have sent a message to tens of thousands of people to say ‘relax, your holiday is covered’.
“We’re going to put that in, and hopefully our travel agent partners will understand that we in our B2B businesses have no interest in that data.
“We’ll of course put it in the contracts that we’ll only use that data should there be a catastrophic issue. We can step up to [such events], we’re well trained. But without the data you can’t do anything about it.”
Ben Bouldin, associate vice-president and managing director UK and Ireland for Royal Caribbean International, agreed customer information sharing needed an overhaul.
“It took everyone a week to get any sort of data,” he said. “The difficulty was also when all the data wasn’t taken at the time. Some agencies didn’t complete customer details effectively enough.
“And it’s not just failures this is relevant for – it’s hurricanes, typhoons, anything that changes an itinerary.
“You just need to be able to contact them quickly and effectively. If the industry wants to step up its overall ability to serve the customer properly we have to all make clear what we need. There has to be a level of trust.”
Bevan added: “The biggest issue is we’re all thinking about ourselves, not the customer.
“I actually had to pull up an Atol certificate recently and it’s a joke. It’s a waste of space.
“It’s got the client’s name, the tour operator they’re with, the dates they’re travelling on and that’s it. It’s got to have our details on it for one.
“We should have their details on there too. It’s old-fashioned. We’ve got to look after the customer first.”