Travel agents must have "real, gentle and fair" conversations with clients about the refund crisis in travel, Travel Network Group chief executive Gary Lewis has said.
Appearing on BBC Midlands Today on Tuesday (21 April), Lewis said it was imperative the government made a decision on the Package Travel Regulations (PTRs) to ease the pressure the sector is facing.
He also called on government to act to help get money from airlines and operators back into agents’ businesses and subsequently into their clients’ hands.
On the subject of balances for upcoming trips where the latest Foreign Office advice against all non-essential travel worldwide may yet not apply, Lewis praised agents for their resolve.
"Clearly, there are some real, gentle conversations behind had through travel agents," said Lewis. "[They] are really working on behalf of customers and the tour operations to ensure there is a fair conversation being had when the balance date is due and we’re quite clear they’re unlikely to be travelling at those dates."
When asked about the state of the industry and whether there could be any further Thomas Cook or Monarch-esque collapses, Lewis stressed that the circumstances were very different. "Good businesses will survive this, he said.
However, he said it was vital government acted on the PTRs and put pressure on airlines to pull money back down the pipeline or risk undoing the good work it has done to support business.
"They need to make those decisions," said Lewis. "And if they don’t and there is mass insolvencies in travel businesses, customers won’t get their money back any quicker. They will have to wait and apply through the Atol scheme. Thomas Cook failed in September last year, there was over 400,000 bookings in that failure, there are still customers today waiting for money back from the Atol process.
"For us to be honest... you’re not going to get your money back quicker by demanding a refund. The money in the pipeline hasn’t come back from the airlines and the tour operators, and we need a government decision and government pressure on airlines to bring that money back down the chain."