Hays Travel Independence Group members have been “disproportionately affected” by the Covid-19 pandemic, resulting in their appetite to sell multi-contract packages to “virtually vanish”.

Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, managing director John Hays said there were only a minority of IG members still dynamically packaging, but that the pandemic had caused them problems and “hit home” the risks.

He said: “For quite a while in Hays Travel, virtually everything that’s Hays Travel-branded – the vast majority – has always been a full package, either acting as an agent for another tour operator, or through our own tour operation (Hays Travel Tour Operating) – and that’s kept things simple.

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“But within our Independence Group members, some of them – a minority, probably 10% or less – have been doing multi-contract packages.”

He said the number had shrunk when the package travel regulations were changed in 2018, meaning a multi-contract package was classed as a ‘package’, and the agent putting it together had obligations to their client  to act as a tour operator.

Hays said: “Many of the Independence Group members who did do that, because of the risks to themselves in terms of taking on this extra responsibility voluntarily, said ‘we don’t want to do that’.

“The world’s now changed totally again and the few we have in this category really had problems because of what’s happened, and have been disproportionately affected.

Hays said the pandemic had put many IG members off selling multi-contract packages altogether. “We’re finding the appetite of our Independence Group members to do that, and for members to take that risk, has virtually vanished. To some extent, reality has really come home to them and a lot of them are branding our Hays Tour Operating packages very successfully instead.”

Hays said IG members were over-branding Hays’ ‘peace of mind guarantee’, available on Hays Travel Tour Operating for selected airlines and selected hotels, giving customers a full refund up to six weeks before departure.