The much talked about Package Travel Regulation is set to come into force on 1 July, bringing with it greater protection for British travellers.
Steve Witt, Co-founder of Not Just Travel, one of the fastest growing travel agencies, debunks the new legislation and explains what the changes mean for travellers.
“In the past, a travel agent was responsible for booking a trip; they would typically find you the cheapest deal and then you were on your own. The travel market has changed dramatically in recent years, with an increasing number of consumers using the Internet to research and book individual components of their holidays, rather than taking up a traditional package deal. This often left travellers at risk should a problem occur with their holidays, as was the case with the collapse of Monarch Airlines, which saw many passengers left out of pocket or even without a holiday.
“Holidays are often one of the biggest financial purchases we make during the year, and something we all look forward to. When something goes wrong, holiday makers can find themselves not only out of pocket, but also alone to resolve the problem.
“The new Package Travel Regulation that is being brought into force by the British Government brings trading standards and consumer protection up to speed to match the changing market. The Regulation puts more responsibility on the travel agent to take care of its customers until they return from their holidays.”
The new Travel Regulation means that if you book a separate flight and hotel through a travel agent, the same rules will now apply as a traditional pre-arranged package holiday through the likes of Thomas Cook or Jet2Holidays. Up until now, consumers may have thought they had the same protection, but the reality has been very different.”
Steve continues: “The Package Travel Regulation is a fantastic initiative, providing reassurance for consumers that they have the right protection in place, should they need it. It also provides absolute clarity for the travel industry on their role and responsibilities. This means all customers, whether they book a package holiday or separate components together can expect 24-hour support from their travel agent should anything go wrong, such as problems with hotels or cancelled flights. This is a real step-change in the industry, where consumers used to be on their own, with travel agents having no obligation to help.
“The Regulation will have a massive impact on travel companies, as it requires significant financial resources and the in-house infrastructure to support the change. Many smaller or online travel businesses may struggle to implement the changes.
“Over the last year, we have been adding extra insurance to our business to ensure we are compliant from day one with this new legislation. We have also been hard at work training our Not Just Travel consultants to ensure that they understand their new responsibilities, as well as putting in place the necessary extra support at head office, so that we are prepared for this change. We scheduled our mid-year Conference last week to coincide with the announcement on the Package Travel Regulation, so we could address this face-to-face with our personal Travel Consultants, providing advice and guidance to them and allaying their concerns. This all means that we’re ready to support our customers, should the need arise.”
Under the new Regulation, travel companies will need to inform each traveller it is buying a package and that doing so affords them certain rights under the new Regulation. They will also advise who is responsible if something goes wrong with the holiday.