Fears are rising that consumers’ trust in travel agents will wane without urgent clarity about refund payments on cancelled bookings.
Travel agent Oliver Broad, director, RB Collection in Lichfield, joined calls for a fast response on the issue of refunds as retailers face increasing questions from clients who want their holiday payments returned.
He said: “We need clarity and we need it as soon as possible to put out a strong, unified message from the industry. A lot of operators have already stopped giving refunds. Clients were told it was an option and now it is not. We need to know what the message is to tell customers.”
The call follows other calls for clarity from the trade and comes as Abta and the Civil Aviation Authority continue to discuss the issue of relaxing the requirement to refund customers within 14 days of cancellation.
The aim is to replace cash refunds with credit notes but this has yet to be confirmed. An update is expected in the coming days.
Broad said the majority of RB Collection’s clients remained understanding on the issue but warned this was changing, with more asking for their money back.
He said: “I think consumer confidence has been seriously knocked and some are really worried about their incomes now. In the last 48 hours the tide has started turning with the customer and they are getting worried.
“We are trying to amend or postpone bookings but as confidence is getting knocked, they just want their money back.”
Broad said the agency was already putting emergency measures in place to cope, including switching resources from traditional marketing to more cost-effective marketing through social media, holding talks with the bank and landlord to source extra funds and reduce or defer rent payments.
He added: “I am worried for the industry as a whole. We are already ringing up fellow agents to see what they are doing and checking they have the same information and have seen what the chancellor is doing as well as making sure our team is up to date. Everybody needs to take this seriously.”
Already one of the agency’s eight staff is working from home in self-isolation and the shop is encouraging clients only to come in if it is an emergency.
“I think it’s important to keep our retail area open but we are saying to clients only come in if you have to and instead of coming in for a sit down to tell us about your holiday as usual, call us,” he added.
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