Opinion: Atol changes are welcome, despite the pain

Opinion: Atol changes are welcome, despite the pain

Kathryn Ward, retail director, Tui UK

It’s certainly been a busy start to the year and, as ever, there’s been plenty of change in our industry.

The government’s decision to reform Atol bonding has been taking up a fair bit of my time.

I’ve needed to ensure we have robust plans for training our staff, making sure they will understand what the new Atol licence is and what it means to our customers, and making sure our systems are up to date to handle the change.

Although it’s been a little painful to get everything in place, we think the Atol changes are a good thing. It creates a more level playing field and gives our customers a much clearer message.

Customers’ buying habits and the way we sell holidays have changed beyond recognition in the past few years, so these changes to the Atol scheme are very welcome. However, it does make you think about which companies you want to do business with going forward as the responsibility for repatriation and refund in the event of failure sits with the Atol-holder.

I’m sure it’s something many people are discussing and considering at the moment.

What the industry really needs now, of course, to make things even clearer for customers, is for airlines selling Flight-Plus holidays to be brought within the Atol scheme.

We need to make sure we keep encouraging the government to make the changes required for that to happen.

The cruise industry has had a challenging few months following the Costa Concordia incident, which dominated the news for such a long time. Unfortunately, the image of the cruise ship sinking was one that TV producers were reluctant to take off the air.

Having taken over responsibility for cruise distribution at Tui, we’ve been working with our partners to get some sales momentum back and we are just about there.

I was hugely impressed by the way the trade worked together after the incident. The message to consumers was that cruising is safe and that the incident would not affect the industry.

And cruise operators have been demonstrating their commitment and confidence in the UK market, investing in ships and announcing updates and other news. I was delighted to hear Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean announce more capacity from the UK.

At Thomson Cruises we have made a big announcement too as we replace Thomson Destiny with the more modern Thomson Majesty.

There will be another announcement from Thomson Cruises very soon, so it is exciting times for cruise at Tui.

The majority of Thomson cruise are sold through the trade and the ships have a very loyal following, so it’s great to see the company investing like this.

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