All early indications are that at least one positive thing will come out of a post COVID 19 crisis for our tourism industry. So many regular visitors have been confronted, frustrated and generally challenged by the battle to secure refunds from airlines, online travel companies and tour operators, that I believe will result in a massive trend to book directly next time, largely eliminating the intermediaries from the process.
ABTA, the British travel association, while issuing guidance to its members, many companies have ignored this advice and dictated their own rules in terms of cash refunds and credit vouchers relating to monies pre-paid in good faith for flights and holidays yet to be taken.
This has left UK consumers questioning the relevance of the organization in their eyes and driven many to seek alternative recompense through their credit card issuers and Small Claims Court. Essential reading for anyone considering booking a future holiday will be the Which Publication Report on the performance of travel firms and airlines in respect to the time taken in refunding.
Several of the same tour operators have, for want of a kinder term, threatened hotels with deferred payments devoid of interest, for stays already completed, fully aware that many accommodation providers are already fighting for economic survival.
To fight back some of our hotels have been very proactive by offering vouchers directly to guests which can be redeemed for future stays. An example is to buy a voucher at this time for say US$100, which will have an actual enhanced redemption value of US$115 or even US$125 towards a room for a chosen forward date, yet to be decided. This makes sense in a number of ways and can be a win-win for all involved. The hotel could help reduce any borrowings they have incurred during these difficult times and therefore interest payable, while at the same time, attracting a higher percentage of direct bookings.
These will then not be subject to the substantial rack rate discounts the tour operators extract, which are often in the region of 30 or even 40 per cent off published room prices.
The guests will benefit by receiving added-value, obtaining a product which would normally cost, considerably more.
Those individuals, who may worry about the viability of the supplier (hotel or villa), can choose to pay by credit card, which has in many cases, the prospect of both earning miles towards their flight, while giving added financial protection in the case of not receiving the service as advertised.
Our regular return arrivals may also consider that the quickest way they can help restore their favourite holiday spot back to recovery, is to ensure that every very possible dollar and cent finds its way to Barbados.
This well could be a better all-round solution than risking, in many cases, further limited savings, which remain offshore for a prolonged period in the bank account of some intermediary that still owes its customers and accommodation providers, tens of millions of dollars.