If anyone needs to book a holiday this January, it has to be poor old Chris Grayling.
The Transport Secretary has been no stranger to catastrophe during his time in office, but the latest effort reached new depths.
Tasked with arranging additional contingency ferry capacity to enable us to import enough food in the event of a no-deal Brexit come March 29, his department awarded a contract to Seabourne Freight – a firm without any ships.
Grayling’s confident insistence that they would nevertheless be fully prepared was somewhat undermined when it was revealed that Seabourne Freight had seemingly used business terms and conditions from a takeaway company.
If you were trying to come up with the perfect metaphor for our government’s handling of Brexit, you couldn’t do much better than this. It’s another clear example of the lack of any kind of plan. Unless, of course, the plan is to ward off a UK famine by ordering a giant Deliveroo from France.
The debacle also highlights a murky practice that we see all too often in the travel sector – the copying and pasting of T&Cs.
Many travel companies (including some large ones who really should know better) will happily copy their T&Cs from an unmodified, off-the-shelf template or even from a competitor in order to save a few quid in legal fees.
Needless to say, such thrift is a false economy and can come back to bite you. Your T&Cs are your first line of defence against any kind of claim from your customer. They usually need tailoring so they accurately reflect how your business operates in practice. Heaven forbid you find yourself in the dock, trying to defend your cancellation policy as industry standard when your contract actually says “delivery in 30 minutes or it’s free”.
If that wasn’t a good enough reason, consider that in 2018 an unprecedented number of new regulations came into effect. We were force-fed an Alphabetti Spaghetti of new acronyms such as PTRs, LTAs, PSD2, and GDPR that were as unappetising as they were tricky to untangle.
These new rules meant profound changes to the way many travel businesses operate, affecting how they collect payments, protect customers, process data and charge for cancellations.
If you’re looking for a new year’s resolution, then reviewing your T&Cs would be a good place to start. Coincidentally, my new year resolution is to cut down on takeaways. Happy New Year!
Martin Alcock is director at Travel Trade Consultancy