Industry veteran Seamus Conlon has urged travel companies to seek overdrafts and loans rather to fund customer refunds, “rather than relying on customer monies”.
It comes after Conlon, Steve Endacott and Will Waggott joined forces to create an online web resource to host information and advice on how to “survive today… to rebound later” – Rebound Consulting.
The trio said the site had had “a strong level of requests for advice” in its first week. With the most common topic of concern refunds (including retailers operating trust funds), the Endacott said many enquiries had been “just to get some reassurance from a third party that the tough decision they are making are the right ones”. “Unfortunately, invariably they are,” he added.
On refunds, Conlon – chief executive of TourHound – said: “In principle I believe that customers should always be offered a full refund as an option if a service or product cannot be supplied.
“Having said that, none of the current rules or legislation envisaged the complete cessation of travel for many months, or airlines not refunding travel agents or tour operators on scale, so we all need to be practical about timescales of refunds.
“My preference is that companies secure overdrafts or loans rather than rely on customer monies, which should have been refunded, to fund expenses.
“That way, you know you have cash available and you don’t have to worry about disgruntled customers destroying the reputation you have built over many years.”
Rebound Consulting also reports that although a large number of companies are furloughing staff, many are hesitating to furlough their top directors or senior staff.
Waggott said: “Furloughing the staff closest to you is the hardest decision to make, but often you only need admin staff to rebook customers on a rolling basis and not expensive management not used to doing the day-to-day jobs.”
Endacott added many directors are forgetting to apply the same logic they have adopted in their business to their home life.
“For the travel industry the next nine months are going to be the hardest of our working lives, with most people on furlough or taking large pay cuts.
“However, many people I have spoken to seem to have forgotten about themselves, or feel it to be a failure to defer mortgages etc. It’s not, it’s just sensible to take the pressure off at home, whilst you’re going through hell at work.
“I’d strongly recommend seeking rent or mortgage holidays and suspending as many large outgoings as you can until to a time when you’re back to full earnings. You do have the rest of your working life to pay these off!”