Aito is a family big enough to have a voice, but small enough for members to get to know each other. We operate a sharing culture and, in challenging times, you see a family sticking together.
We may not shout the loudest in public – although we punch well above our weight in the political arena thanks largely to our head of commercial Bharat Gadhoke and chair Noel Josephides – but there has certainly been plenty of behind-the-scenes work handled for members lately.
We are hounding all parts of government on the package travel regulations, on cancellations/refunds, airlines, insurance, chargebacks and on anything/everything that threatens our livelihoods. It is not easy when MPs don’t understand our industry; in the select committee interview with Abta chief Mark Tanzer and The Independent’s Simon Calder, it was evident the ministers didn’t know the difference between a travel agent and a tour operator – basic stuff.
At least MPs got the message the refund funnel starts with airlines and suppliers. The pipe is blocked and needs to be cleared to allow operators and agents to help their customers. Surely the airlines, finally, must be brought into the consumer protection fold? We’ve lobbied for this endlessly over the years – and it makes huge sense, particularly with some currently under considerable threat.
Now, more than ever, we need to know our customers’ views on holidays. Aito plans to run its 2020 consumer survey, handled by Spike, in four sections – the main survey in September/October and three more smaller surveys from now to the end of August, based on trigger points as yet undecided, to help members gauge current consumer thinking. As a result, I am confident more operators and agents will be keen to be involved in gathering this highly valuable data.