Are Your Travel Plans Safe With Us?
In the early hours of this morning 1 of the UK’s longest running tour operators closed it’s doors, grounded flights and ceased to trade leaving much uncertainty for it’s crew, those with future bookings, those currently abroad and the industry itself. Fortunately for most the disruption will be minimal and it already looks like the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the industry are coming to the aid of those caught up in what really is potentially the end of an era.
Monarch was founded in 1968 and I’m sure like myself many of you will have been on a Monarch holiday or flight. I remember my first journey as a child where I bought a model of the plane we were on whilst flying to our holiday and subsequent journeys in later life. The service was always great and I would always opt for a Monarch flight over other operators if it fitted in with my plans. Sadly this does not appear to have been enough to stop what appears to have been the inevitable over the last few years.
The media is branding the collapse of Monarch as “the perfect storm.” A catalogue of events over recent years largely out of Monarch’s control added to the intense price war among rival operators increased the strain which has ultimately led to the demise of one of the UK’s largest and somewhat loved tour operators.
A large scale collapse of what is most likely a household name like Monarch among the travel community although sad is a good opportunity for everyone else to take stock, reflect and more importantly learn. What can we do differently? How do we prepare for changes that occur in our industry and how do we stay competitive? It’s likely that the unfortunate events unfolding will in fact bolster the short haul air travel industry and strengthen the very rivals Monarch was competing against as there will now be, one less competitor. Sad for those caught up in Monarch’s collapse but potentially beneficial to the remaining operators.
So, as a growing tour operator ourselves currently excluding flights we ask the question, is your booking safe with us and how do we ensure your money is secure?
Well in short the answer is yes your booking is safe but how?
Any tour operator putting together packages for profit or not MUST comply with the package travel regulations but what is a package?
The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992 state:
“package” means the pre-arranged combination of at least two of the following components when sold or offered for sale at an inclusive price and when the service covers a period of more than twenty-four hours or includes overnight accommodation:—
(a) transport; (b)accommodation; (c)other tourist services not ancillary to transport or accommodation and accounting for a significant proportion of the package,
In short where an operator puts together 1 or more services to form a package of over 24 hours such as transport and accommodation (or transport and a tour guide) then sells that package they must comply with the regulations. When only one service is offered alone (e.g. just guide) a package is not formed and therefore does not need to be protected.
For us at Mountaineerin Ltd we offer several packages, for example:
A national 3 peaks challenge where we put together transport, B&B and a leader
A national 3 peaks challenge where we put together transport and a leader
A fully inclusive Everest Base Camp or Kilimanjaro Trek excluding flight
All of the above and other events we offer are required to comply with the regulations and there are several ways we can do this. Some are:
ATOL – Air Travel Organisor’s Licensing (For packages including air travel)
ABTOT – Association of Bonded Tour Organisors Trust
ABTA – Association of British Travel Agents
Trust Account – Such as the Travel Trust Association
Financial Failure Protection – Insurance with regulation compliant insurers
At present we use a financial failure insurer (as this suits our current business model) that complies with the Package Travel regulations which give both us and our customers the reassurance that if something goes wrong their money is safe.
You may recognise some of the logos.
In the event of a tour operator or agent ceasing to trade at any point from the customer booking through to full delivery of the event, holiday or tour the above organisations can be contacted to discuss refunds and ongoing services. In Monarch’s case as packages including air travel are ATOL protected this includes repatriation back to the UK.
We now know what a package is and how it can be protected, the last question is are you protected?
The last thing you want to hear whilst packing your duffel bag before heading on your Kilimanjaro trek is that the company you booked with has ceased trading and your trek has been cancelled but it does happen from time to time. You’ve bought new kit, paid for your flights and the trek itself so what happens now?
Well, as long as you booked with a company that complies with the Package Travel Regulations by using the above organisations or methods you’re sorted. The cost of your trek will be eligible for refund and although there will be some disruption to your plans your trip of a lifetime can still happen.
So, when considering who to book with for your UK or overseas trip you should consider the above as well as everything else on your wish list when deciding on the best company for your trek, event or tour. If you don’t you risk losing money and not going on that trip of a lifetime if the worst should happen.
The events unfolding this week with Monarch are sad, disruptive, frustrating, annoying but also the harsh reality of business. Ultimately some people will lose out not least the loyal staff who have supported the company through several years of tough trading and we hope that those caught up can move on with relative ease.
As a company operating in the tour industry with increasing competitors joining the market we hope never to be in a similar situation to Monarch but I’m sure they thought that too. We are always looking for that little bit of something that makes us slightly different to the rest, whether that be a free duffel bag for your long haul overseas trek or simply the passion our guides have for their job, we hope to continue to succeed.