- Mr. Sanjeev Chandra
- Tour Operators
- 1321 Hits
In an ever more unstable world, there are even more reasons to put your trust in package tour operators, argues Nick Trend.
Package holidays - in recent years they’ve fallen sharply out of fashion. Quite simply, the internet has made it easier and more fun to book travel arrangements independently, and the role of the tour operator has seemed less and less relevant. But the world has also become more unstable and uncertain over the last few years, and, in our rush to be independent, we seem to have forgotten the advantages of booking a package.
Most important is the financial protection they offer against the bankruptcy of a travel company - a side of things which has also seen some important changes recently. This week marks the first anniversary of the introduction of the Atol certificate, which must be given to customers by operators and agents to prove that they are covered under the scheme. It is a critical improvement on the old system, and has finally made protection arrangements transparent to consumers.
Unfortunately, there are still some major gaps and loopholes. Most flight-only bookings with airlines remain unprotected - which means that if your airline collapses, you may lose your money, or be stranded abroad. And not all “packages” are covered. Book a flight and hotel or car hire together with a flight ticket direct from an airline, and there is no obligation for it to protect you. However, a few airlines, including British Airways and easyJet do offer protection for such bookings (as long as they are made in one transaction), and overall, it is true to say that, as long as we book in the right way, we are better protected now than we have ever been.
The second issue which has thrown the advantages of package holidays into relief recently, is the general uncertainty faced by travellers around the world. This week’s close down of major museums and National Parks in the US and, more tragically, last week’s terrorist attack in Nairobi, are both examples of the sort of incidents which can unexpectedly disrupt the best-laid travel plans. In such situations, independent travellers are left with some hard decisions to make, and probably no help to fall back on. Those on packages, however, can turn to their tour operator, which has a legal duty of care to make sure they are safe, help them resolve problems and make any necessary refunds.
Again, that cover isn’t perfect. As I have pointed out before, tour operators sometimes have a tendency to fall back on legal technicalities, rather than making sure that their customers feel looked after. But generally speaking, you have far more rights and protection if you book a package rather than travel independently.
Finally, it’s important to remember that going on a package holiday doesn’t mean you have to travel in groups or book a a bog-standard week in the sun. You can still tailor-make your arrangements through a reputable tour operator or travel agent such as Trailfinders (trailfinders.com) or DialAFlight (dialaflight.com) and benefit both from financial protection and a duty of care.
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