John Hays has blasted the government for the botched introduction of the new Package Travel Regulations (PTRs) in July amid what he said has been one of the busiest years for new rules and regulations.
Hays, speaking at the Hays Travel Independence Group conference in the Algarve, said it was an “absolute disgrace” that just three weeks before the new PTRs came into effect on July 1, the travel sector was still left guessing about what they were going to say.
Reflecting on a year of “massive, unprecedented” regulatory change, John Hays said the ban on credit and debit card surcharging (PSD2) in January, GDPR in May and finally the new PTRs in July “had changed what we do - and how we do it”.
At the conference, Hays revealed the full extent of the impact of PSD2 on Hays IG members, and unveiled the company’s new direct debit payment system to reduce costs to members.
On the PTRs, Hays said: “Three weeks beforehand, we didn’t really know what the rules were going to say. It was an absolute disgrace. We are package organisers now. We are responsible for any issues with our holidays. It’s a major change in the nature of the industry.”
He said the additional responsibilities placed on agents by the new PTRs were highlighted by a summer of European flight delays and the recent seismic and volcanic activity in and around Indonesia.
“We had clients in Bali,” said Hays. “We were getting a lot of phone calls in the night. If as an agent you are acting as a tour operator, clients are expecting you to answer the phone. The burdens are onerous.”
Hays said it was down to individual Hays IG members to decide whether to take on these extra responsibilities, adding while most passed its stress tests, it had to say no to some members.
“We said ‘fine’ so long as you know what you are taking on,” said Hays. “At the end of the day, Hays Travel has to pick up the pieces. We would be the ones in court.”
Reflecting on GDPR, Hays said “one or two things had gone wrong”, albeit nothing major, and stressed the company was there to advocate and represent members in the event of a data breach.
One key area of focus for Hays has been further reducing paper-based enquiries and encouraging members to fully embrace its iSell and Know Your Customer platforms.
Hays said while system enquiries were up from 62% to 80%, the remaining 20% were free to continue with paper, so long as they were are of their responsibility for clients data.
Hays has also invested £60,000 in secure, end-to-end payment encryption, which is available free to members.