Industry leaders greeted the government’s confirmation of Atol protection for refund credit notes with relief.
Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer welcomed the announcement and CAA guidance saying: “This gives reassurance to consumers and supports the travel industry at an especially difficult time.
“This verifies that the Atol scheme provides protection for cancelled holidays when a refund remains outstanding in the event of a travel organiser’s failure.
“This assurance enables consumers to hold and rely on refund credit notes with confidence before re-booking a holiday.”
Tanzer noted: “The move will particularly help tour operators that have not been able to immediately refund customers for cancelled package holidays because they have had to wait for money back from airlines and other suppliers.
“We now need the government to listen to industry calls for tailored support to protect businesses and jobs until a recovery can properly take effect.”
Miles Morgan, chairman of Miles Morgan Travel, also welcomed the announcement, but said: “Suppliers, travel agents and, most important, customers needed this announcement months’ ago.
“Like the 14-day quarantine and the Foreign Office advice on cruising, the government is simply off the pace with its thinking and announcements.”
Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of the Advantage Travel Partnership, hailed the “long-awaited announcement” saying: “This important move will help to rebuild confidence in the industry which was severely damaged due to many passengers having to endure long waits for refunds.”
She noted: “Travel anywhere will remain an uncertain and complex experience so it is vital consumers can plan a holiday in the knowledge they are protected if they can’t travel due to Covid-19.”
Lo Bue-Said added: “We do urge consumers not to panic buy holidays, to chat through every aspect of the holiday experience with a travel agent who will ensure they know what to expect and have the holiday they deserve.”
A senior industry figure said: “It has been a long haul. But apart from the appalling delay, it’s pretty clear, positive and reassuring.
“It’s very good for the industry and a very positive message for consumers.”
Which? Travel editor Rory Boland said: “Which? has been calling for the government to confirm if refund credit notes are financially guaranteed so this announcement will be a huge relief to the countless customers who have accepted one in place of a cash refund.
“This move means people can now be confident their money is protected if they decide to support their tour operator by accepting a refund credit note, but it later goes bust.”
But Boland suggested: “Package travel companies should not use this as an excuse to continue forcing credit notes on to customers and must make clear when they have the right to a cash refund.
“Holiday providers must do right by their customers – and the law – and return any outstanding refunds for cancelled holidays.”
In June, Which? claimed refund credit notes (RCNs) “could require lengthy and complicated authorisation without any guarantee of your money back” and urged “those with cancelled holidays not to accept [a refund credit note]”.
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