Travel corridors offered summer holiday hopes for Britons following months of cancellations amid lockdown. However, despite the Government’s frequent warnings that travel bans could be reinstated at any time, many Britons were left floundering following the sudden U-turn on travel to Spain on July 25.
The good news is, whether your trip is cut short or obliterated altogether, in many instances those who booked some types of holiday are protected.
“When it comes to holidays, customers need to understand that they are financially protected if they have booked an ATOL protected package,” explains Craig Ashford, director of communications for travel agency TravelUp.
“This now means that they can be offered a Credit Voucher which will carry that ATOL protection for when they next book their holiday.
“This is a great support for many travel companies and travel agents and I would urge those in a position to take a credit voucher to do so.”
Of course, given the current climate, not all holidaymakers can afford to think about travel in the future.
“If customers are looking for a refund they must be aware that their package holiday may have been put together by an agent,” he continues.
“This means that the ATOL protected package holiday may have a flight with an airline such as Ryanair and refunds have been known to be notoriously slow.
“This is due to the airlines being slow on processing refunds and the fact is that when a customer books 9/10 the money for the flight is passed on to the airline within a short space of time if not immediately.
“The agent does not hold this money, it is sat with the airline. Very few agents have the ability to refund before the monies are received from the airline.”
Regardless of the situation though, speaking directly to a travel agent seems to be the way to go.
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It’s a sentiment echoed by Kelly Cookes, leisure direct for independent travel agent group Advantage Travel Partnership.
“My main piece of advice would be to speak to you your local travel agent for trusted advice. We’ve worked hard to ensure our travel agent members have the most up-to-date information in terms of the ever-changing government advice,” she said.
Despite the sudden changes to travel advisories though, after months of time at home, many Britons are feeling a touch of wanderlust and may still be keen to get away.
Though travel is still possible, Mr Ashford warns there is likely turbulence ahead.
“The coming months are going to be turbulent with continual change and this is going to affect everyone involved in travel,” he said.
“Customers, Hoteliers, Airlines, airports, Tour Operators, in the resort business, restaurants, shops and Travel Agents like TravelUp.
“It is only with every element of travel pulling together will we see any return to normality and the fact is we do not know when that will be.”
Speaking on Sky News, Chancellor Rishi Sunak emphasised the Government’s stance on travel.
Following the reinstatement of three new travel bans, he said: “If we need to take action as you’ve seen overnight we will of course not hesitate to do that, and we’re doing that to protect people’s health.”
For those still eager to travel, ATOL protection could be their saving grace.
“I’d recommend booking an ATOL bonded or package holiday with your agent, that way you’re entitled to a full refund under the package travel regulations if elements of the holiday aren’t provided as required – for example, cancellation due to change in government advice,” said Ms Cookes.
She added: “My advice would be to approach travel with flexibility in mind. We are in a situation where things can change very quickly, as we’ve seen recently with Spain.”
Travel Advantage Partnership is also heralding the travel industry to commit to a “48-hours Flexi” policy for consumers which Ms Cooke’s explains would allow customers to “change a booking with no fee when their holiday is impacted by new Government advice.”
Furthermore, travel insurance is more important than ever, as Seamus McCauley, editor in chief of Holiday Extras points out.
“Currently, extra uncertainty in the travel market makes travel insurance more crucial than ever,” he said.
“Getting travel insurance as soon as a trip is booked ensures the traveller is covered if plans change, so they can book with confidence that their trip is protected if anything goes wrong.”
However, regardless of policies in place, the experts say that staying up-to-date on relevant FCO updates is the most crucial thing for those planning a holiday.
“Customers need to follow the FCO advice, whether they believe it to be correct or not,” said Mr Ashford.
“The main issues arise when travel insurance comes in to play. To my knowledge, there is not a travel insurance policy available at present that will cover you should anything go wrong in resort if you have not heeded the advice of the FCO.”