Worrying developments for some holidaymakers as a couple of tour operators decide to give up their ABTA membership after disagreeing with the travel associations refund rules.
ABTA, formerly known as the Association of British Travel Agents, is a travel association that represents both travel agents and tour operators. It is designed to make sure that all of its members provide fully protected package holidays to customers, and also to provide support for holidaymakers should their travel company experience financial problems.
In light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and continuously changing travel advice, ABTA recently told all of its members to fully refund customers who wish to cancel their package holiday, if the FCDO advises against non-essential travel to their holiday destination.
However, some tour operators within the association felt that this ruling was unfair, given that the Package Travel Regulations Act was not designed to deal with the scale of disruption that Covid-19 has caused, and have refused to fully refund customers.
The disputing tour operators were informed to comply with the regulations or leave the association – which some have.
While the companies in questions have said that their holidays will remain ATOL protected (which means that customers will be refunded if the firms go into administration), they won’t be covered to cancel their holiday as a result of changes to FCDO advice.
Package holidays have both legal and financial protection, which is why they are so popular among British tourists. Tour operators, which offer package holidays, are also the first port of call for a refund if the trip you booked and paid for is not as advertised. This is because you have paid the tour operator for a service (i.e. a holiday) that you have not received. For this reason, many travel insurance providers will have told customers with trips affected by Covid-19 to try and recover any lost costs through the travel agent or tour operator in the first instance.
Only after you have tried to recover costs from all other avenues, and confirmed that you are unable to get your money back, should go through your travel insurance. Of course, a successful claim through your insurer will also be dependent on whether you have suitable cancellation cover.
As some providers are leaving ABTA, customers looking to get away in the future will need to be aware of exactly what protection their tour operator or package holiday offers, and where their travel insurance policy could help them, as they could be left in a situation where only part of the holiday is protected.
For more information on the steps you can take to recover any lost holiday costs, and guidance on at which point you should contact your travel insurance provider, click here.