To refund or not to refund? This is the biggest question facing the industry as it continues to grapple with the mounting challenges posed by the coronavirus crisis.
To the consumer press, the travel companies holding firm and issuing credit notes instead are an outrage.
But as Abta’s John de Vial highlighted in last week’s TTG Business Support Live “there are consumer rights and then there’s consumer interest” (p7).
In this brutal climate, distributing widespread refunds will ultimately lead to the demise of travel firms. And that, surely, can be of little benefit to anyone.
Senior travel figures believe companies should instead talk to their clients and explain the financial pressures they are under.
But as The Travel Village Group’s Phil Nuttall points out, this is tough when these same businesses have had to put staff on furlough.
“We need a directive from government that allows exemption in its current form to enable extra resources to be used in our businesses to service the sheer volume of calls and administrative processes,” he urges (p18).
There are other concerns about the government’s support measures. Legal expert Alan Bowen notes some of his clients have been offered interest rates of up to 30% by their banks.
What point is there in helping a company now if it means it will be crippled when it has to repay the favour further down the line?
And there remains the industry’s continued mixed internal messages. For every agent moving heaven and earth to get money back for their clients there is a tour operator/airline/cruise line refusing to play ball.
Who customers want to buy from may well be the big question once the dust settles from this crisis. But an equally important one will be who agents want as their partners.