COVID-19: Refunds, Transfers and Credit Notes

May 01, 2020

COVID-19 has thrown up enormous challenges for all of us as we find business grinds to a halt and we live thorugh this period of ‘lock down’. For Tour Operators it is particularly complicated as we find that legislation written to protect the consumer under the Package Travel Regulations (PTRs) are not fit for purpose in the current crisis. HM Government has also been slow to respond to a request from the travel industry for a relaxation of the refund requirements as set out in the Package Travel Regulations.

In operating tours we have to prepay many of our suppliers, often months in advance. We have now found that not all of them are willing to refund us immediately, if at all. Some have promised refunds, but these will take time to process, while in other cases suppliers are only prepared to allow us to ’roll over’ pre-payments against future tours. We also have some non-refundable payments.

We would ask you to consider the following options if you have an existing booking with us for a forthcoming tour which has been cancelled as a result of COVID-19:

     1. Transfer the booking and all monies paid to date to the next departure for the relevant tour. If you subsequently have to cancel your booking, all funds, less the original non-refundable deposit, would be refundable in accordance with our normal Terms and Conditions (T&Cs).

     2. Hold the funds, or some of the funds, with us in the form of a Refund Credit Note which can be used either for future bookings, or to pay balances due for existing future bookings. At any stage you would be able to request that we return the funds. If not applied by 31 March 2021 we would automatically return the funds.

     3. Cancel your booking – but accept a small voluntary cancellation charge to reflect the payments we are unable to recover on the existing tour and receive a refund for the agreed level of balance payment. If subsequently we find we recover more of the prepayments, we would offer you a discount on your next booking, redeemable when you pay the final balance.

     4. Receive a full refund, as is your right, under the PTRs.

Normally we would not suggest the options above, other than a full refund, but we are in unprecedented times. Notwithstanding, your payment remains protected at all times and is underwritten by our membership of ABTOT (Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust).

Refunds will be made in the same format as you paid us: cheques and ‘Faster Payments/BACS’ will be returned via bank transfer. Debit and credit card payments will be credited back to the original card used for payment. Please note that card refunds can take up to 10 working days.

In connection with the issues raised above, you may also be interested in the following recent articles written by some leading travel journalists:

Simon Calder – Independent 

Nick Trend – Daily Telegraph

If you have any questions concerning the above options, please email or phone me.

Stephen Brook
12 May 2020


Image: Rembrandt, The Shipbuilder & his Wife, Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2020

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