Opinion: Why are unprotected holidays still on the rise?

Opinion: Why are unprotected holidays still on the rise?

It is interesting that, during the key promotional selling period for vital summer business, leading travel companies are spending the lion's share of their marketing budget on promoting ATOL consumer and financial protection.

Who could have imagined during the last economic downturn 18 years ago - when number-two operator ILG collapsed and a raft of package travel regulations followed - that we would now be in an even worse situation regarding consumer protection.

Yes, we have seen a technological revolution transform the travel industry. The establishment of dot-coms and the internet has empowered consumers with instant availability, prices, videos and customer reviews in the blink of an eye.

And while we parade our wares on ever-more sophisticated websites, the elephant in the room is still the lack of consumer protection, and the lack of clarity about it - both for consumers and, embarrassingly, for many key players in our industry.

So much has been done to benefit the consumer - the growth of the low-cost carriers, the advent of bed banks, meta sites and online travel agents. The traditional tour operators and high-street retailers have also adapted to meet the change in consumer requirements.

Vertically integrated operators such as Cosmos have repackaged the traditional package by offering flexible durations on scheduled flights, providing daily or multiple-daily flying (Monarch).

Many businesses have, at huge expense, developed technology to mix and match various companies' products - the real so-called 'just in time' manufacturing.

This provides opportunities for holiday manufacturers to distribute their product while, at the same time, combining that of their competitors - and all ultimately for the benefit of the customer.

The downside is that, at the end of it all, the consumer is, in most cases, not even fully aware of the contract he or she is entering into at the point of sale.

While most of us who have delved deep enough understand the intricacies of protection, it still remains a minefield to those consumers who look to purchase trips overseas only once or twice a year. So I'm baffled that the industry is still waiting for the government to sit up and listen.

While the litigators struggle to achieve clarity, the big players dig deep into their marketing budgets to promote consumer protection and everyone takes their product and distribution offerings up a notch - and all the time the growth of unprotected holidays continues unabated.


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