Our next Q&A features the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) and Business Companion — a government-funded website that offers free impartial legal guidance for businesses. They’ve been providing regular updates throughout the Covid-19 crisis to ensure the travel industry (among others) stays up-to-date with the latest advice. Here’s Karin Layton from the CTSI to explain more:
What’s the best business advice that you’ve heard recently?
Communication with your customers is key. Everyone will have different circumstances and identifying all available options clearly is important to minimise enquiries. Consider the transfer of bookings on a like for like basis, wherever possible. These unprecedented times have so far shown that pragmatism, communication and trust have important roles to play when the strict application of legislation may not be appropriate. Some useful advice is available here for free: www.businesscompanion.info/focus/coronavirus/travel
How important will tourism be to the UK’s economic recovery in the months ahead (after restrictions soften)?
Travel and tourism will be key to aid in the recovery of the economy, we need to ensure that wherever possible the industry needs to maintain consumer confidence and be as clear and fair as possible in issuing refunds, transferring bookings etc. There are calls on the government to relax the 14 day refund rule and give consideration on how the industry can be supported as a result of the pandemic.
How can tourism businesses adapt / prepare?
The travel industry should be proactive in communicating with its customers, clearly displaying all options available. The industry should be mindful of the Package Travel Regulations when making decisions, whilst we would hope that consumers would not pursue court action under the regulations because of the impact of Covid-19, breach of these could ultimately result in this. The industry should make provisions to ensure that their customers feel valued and informed to maintain a good relationship and preserve consumer confidence.
What do you think are the main challenges ahead?
Credit note refunds, which are not protected by the ABTA/ATOL schemes, may not be so appealing to consumers in the wake of recent airline and travel company collapse. Businesses are unlikely to have sufficient cash available to meet all refund requests and many are at risk of going out of business. Foreign suppliers (eg hotels and cruise lines) are refusing, in many cases, to refund deposits provided by UK business.
The Competition and Markets Authority have recently released guidance on future contracts that require consumers to pay now for services they will receive in the future, after the current disruption has lifted. A business should not seek payments for a service it knows it will be unable to provide.
Anything you’d like to add?
For some consumers, there will be a disinclination to travel, there will be reluctance from shielded people, and the industry should recognise this and not penalise those who fall within this category and be a little more flexible with their offering.
Our Practical holiday law guide contains key facts to make sure your business complies with the latest holiday laws (including 2018 Package Travel Regs): www.businesscompanion.info/focus/practical-holiday-law
Covid-19 guidance for travel industry businesses during the pandemic is available here: www.businesscompanion.info/focus/coronavirus/travel?utm_source=ctsi_website&utm_medium=press_release&utm_campaign=coronavirus_focus