The coronavirus crisis is creating extraordinary difficulties for everyone in ways that none of us could ever have predicted.
With the lockdown looking set to continue over the coming weeks at least, both here and overseas, it will bring continued and increasing pressure on travel companies.
The Covid-19 pandemic has created a cash crisis for travel companies, and the government has yet to respond to the industry’s request for urgent action to protect jobs and customer money.
We’re seeing a variety of different responses from companies regarding refunds, so while we continue to wait for the government to provide clarity from its side, Abta is playing its part by developing guidance on refunds for cancelled package holidays.
We’re aware refund credit notes have been a source of discussion, and our latest advice aims to clarify their role.
Available on the member zone of Abta’s website, it includes an overview of what they are, what they should contain and reiterates that they are not the same as vouchers, which do not come with financial protection.
It is vital that members familiarise themselves with the guidance and adhere to the rules set out within it.
We are aware there has been confusion among customers on this matter too, so to further assist members, we have published a Q&A on the consumer advice page of our website, as well as a fact sheet in the member zone, which we recommend you use in your communications with customers.
I absolutely understand the frustration and concern felt by customers and am aware of the urgency to get their money back to them.
However, it’s in nobody’s interests for normally healthy travel businesses to go under. As well as the loss of thousands of jobs, it would take many months for customers to get a refund, many more than if they accept refund credit notes.
We’re doing everything we can in the interest of avoiding further detriment to the consumer, as well as members.
Along with our ongoing media work, we will be proactively communicating these messages further to provide some context to the current situation, including, for example, open letters in print national publications such as the Daily Telegraph, in conjunction with advertising on newspaper websites.
I would also like to give my thanks to those that have already taken part in the Save Future Travel campaign.
We’ve seen an overwhelming response, and it’s important to keep up momentum. If you have yet to visit the website – savefuturetravel.co.uk – please do and encourage others to as well so our voice is heard.
There are things happening in this pandemic that were inconceivable at the start of the year, and these extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.
We recognise the urgency of the situation and financial distress that members and consumers are facing and have had to make difficult decisions which won’t satisfy everyone.
However, the measures we are taking are in the interest of the industry as a whole and are designed to help members, staff and customers through this crisis – we must continue to stand together.