Some things are out of our hands but we must prepare for unforeseen circumstances, says Thompson Travel owner Sharon Thompson.

Force majeure? I don’t think I had ever heard those words until I joined the travel industry. It means unforeseeable circumstances that prevent someone from fulfilling a contract.

I’ve seen this phrase used as an excuse for the lack of provision of proper services, but more recently it has been cited by tour operators and airlines when cancelling their services – examples include cruises, flights and land arrangements.

Storm Ciara hit the UK with some force, followed by Storm Dennis. Social media kept us updated with the fact it was snowing and wet and windy, in case we hadn’t noticed.

Flights cancellations

Lo and behold, flights were cancelled and services disrupted. Needless to say, this triggered travellers’ moans and groans online. Excuse my sarcasm, but if I see one more social media post about a two-hour delay and unhelpful airline staff, I will remove myself from such nonsense. Do these keyboard warriors not realise that their travel providers are actually just trying to avert their deaths?

“If I see one more social media post about a two-hour delay and unhelpful airline staff, I will remove myself from such nonsense.”

To the airline and airport staff out there, I don’t envy your job. You are probably cracking up with all the stupid questions.

That said, of course travellers get stressed, and sometimes for good reason. My six-year-old niece recently headed to the mainland for major brain surgery. Her ferry was delayed by three hours because of the weather. It couldn’t be helped. To those providing services, when someone wants an answer, you may not know how desperate they are to get where they are going, so be kind. As rude as the travelling public can be, everyone has a reason to get where they need to be.

Coronavirus impact

Beyond the UK weather we can add challenges like the coronavirus to the list of examples of force majeure. It’s all part and parcel of working in travel, right? We are all optimistic about the long-term outcome but, personally, I must admit I’m ignorant about the facts. What I do know, is that this is affecting our industry big style.

Cruises, flights, tours, hotels and fantastic long-haul bookings have been cancelled. The hard work put in by all the different sectors of our industry has been affected, yet again. Of course, I sympathise completely with the massive task worldwide providers have in doing their utmost to prevent the spread of this infection, and they should be commended for being proactive in helping us and keeping us informed.

“It hasn’t stopped customers booking other places and the general public are still looking forward to planning their holidays.”

To all the emergency services and health organisations worldwide – thank you. I couldn’t do your job.

I am still alive and able to write this article, so let’s support each other once again and get through yet another disaster. It hasn’t stopped customers booking other places and the general public are still looking forward to planning their holidays, wherever they may be.

As I’ve learnt since I joined the travel industry, force majeure means that these issues are out of our hands. We have to accept that, do right by our customers and our colleagues within the industry, and be ready when the next unforeseen circumstance lands our way. Don’t you just love working in travel?


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Thanks for visiting Northern Ireland

A huge thanks to all the fantastic tour operators who are taking their time to visit agents in Northern Ireland this week and over the next few weeks. The weather has been horrendous and doesn’t look like it’s changing much any time soon. Your expertise and product knowledge is fantastic and helps us better sell your products – but don’t put yourselves at risk.

Customers are looking forward to experiencing their future trips when they can. In days of bad news, and when the word ‘sorry’ is often used when it’s all too late, we say thank you to you guys for all your support! I leave you with this mantra: if you can be anything, be kind and safe.

Podcast: Coronavirus: how serious is it and what impact will it have long term?