Many operators are small businesses and sometimes a single person operating from his or her back bedroom at home. Many of these people have excellent knowledge of their respective destinations they wish to promote and can give clients a whole new perspective on booking a holiday. However, should they wish to help clients with booking a package the ATOL and EU rules come into force.
To obtain an ATOL license is immensely difficult and very costly and time consuming but it is also unfair. Being bonded requires the operator to hold a certain amount in cash or insurance, the latter the most cost effective way of providing a bond but those providing this insurance requires most companies to be in business for two years, seeing competition in the travel industry is so fierce they have no hope of being setting up a travel business or competing on the same level as other operators with an ATOL.
This is unfair and I would like to see smaller businesses pay some sort of levy on each booking they make to the CAA to cover their bond instead of paying vast amounts of money to a few private companies monopolising that part of the industry and making vast profits. Small one man band operators are much less likely to go bankrupt as they are able to make decent profit, do not have massive overheads and offer better services to clients. However, then the EU interferes…
Tour Operators and travel organisers creating packages have to refund clients their holiday costs or provide accommodation if they are stranded due to certain events such as the recent volcanic ash cloud and BA strike etc. Operators are normally able to get a refund from the airline but as it is sometimes very last minute the ground arrangements are usually at the discretion of the hotels and other service providers, sometimes these events happen at the last minute resulting in cancellations which we cannot expect refunds for from the hotels and other suppliers.
Tour Operators do not expect clients to be left out of pocket, it is not their fault when something happens, but neither is it the operator’s fault and most do not own their own airline or accommodation establishments and are usual small businesses run from someone’s home or garden shed. They are not big conglomerates who can absorb these ‘penalties’ and there is no insurance on the market either to help protect them. If a client book, say on ba.com and then somewhere else on a website their hotel there are insurance policies that cover this. This is not the case for small operators who tend to do this because they love the industry or have strong links with the destinations they promote.
Some small operators would have gone bust if the volcano erupted just before the Easter holidays as they would have had to pay their suppliers on the ground and refund all the clients. These regulations do not promote healthy businesses in the UK and it certainly does not apply common sense either!
The regulations are unfair and it penalise operators for something they have no control over. What we require is an insurance policy or a fund that covers these circumstances, similar to a fund the Netherlands has.