Operators are being urged to offer greater flexibility this summer and give consumers a renewed confidence to book holidays in a “make or break” time for the travel industry.

Advantage Travel Partnership is calling for the trade to commit to a “48-hours flexi pledge” for consumers to change a booking for no fee when their holiday is impacted by new government travel advice.

In tandem, the consortium is lobbying the government to provide the industry with 48 hours’ notice when it deems destinations on the quarantine-free list need to be removed due to a rise in Covid-19 cases.

The industry has suffered a surge in cancellations and a “marked decline” in consumer confidence to book due to the sudden removal of Spain from the government’s quarantine-free list and the subsequent Foreign Office advice amended to advise against non-essential travel.

After a significant period of stagnation during months of lockdown, this recent development is a further blow to an industry struggling to survive, further highlighted by this week’s job losses and store closures by Hays Travel and Tui respectively.

Advantage has undertaken a full audit of its supplier partnerships including airlines, hotels, tour operators and ground transportation to analyse their flexible booking policies, in response to a critical decline in consumer confidence.

Findings have been mixed and options for consumers “vary radically” according to confusing terms and conditions depending on a number of factors including timeframes and charges to change a booking.

Advantage Travel Partnership chief executive Julia Lo Bue-Said said: “This is a make-or-break moment in time for the travel industry.

“There is clearly a huge degree of flexibility available, but consumers just don’t know about the options. We need to come together to communicate to consumers that there are flexible options that won’t dent their pocket.

“We are issuing a rallying call today for all travel suppliers, whether they are focused on leisure or business travel, to consolidate and simplify their flexibility policies.

“We want to speak as one industry and say to the consumer we are on your side and we have upped our game to make it easier and stress-free to change your booking should your destination become unavailable due to Covid-19 issues.”

She added: “We believe if consumers had 48 hours’ notice to change their booking to an alternative destination or time they would be more inclined to retain their booking instead of cancelling.

“Equally, if the UK government commits to providing the industry with 48 hours’ notice instead of four hours the industry would be infinitely better equipped to engage with clients to satisfy their rebooking requirements and retain that all-important booking for this year.”

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