News that another budget tour operator’s gone bust isn’t that surprising. As increasing numbers of these companies fold isn’t it time to ask if we should expect an element of risk and whether we get what we pay for?
Tears at the airports, confusion at the travel agencies, bewilderment at the resort hotels.
It must be the UK’s summer holiday season.
Yesterday’s closure of Holidays 4 UK, a budget Turkey specialist tour operator, came almost exactly a year after Goldtrail (another cut-price Turkey operator) failed at the height of last summer’s season.
Desperate times for holidaymakers
Today, newspaper reports of the latest collapse showed a 10-year-old in tears at Manchester airport when he learned his holiday wasn’t happening. The advice to consumers from the official bodies? They will get money back for some of their holiday, but not necessarily all of it, and to find out more they’d have to ask their travel agents.
Meanwhile at the resorts, for the second time this year, holidaymakers face being asked to pay again for their accommodation and then having to wait weeks or months for a refund.
It’s not a great advert for how the UK travel industry treats its customers.
Everyone knows the consumer protection system for travel is a mess, which is why the government is consulting on how to reform it. But as well as blaming that system, should holidaymakers think about their own behaviour?
A risk worth taking?
Both Holidays 4 UK and Goldtrail were selling at the bottom end of the market, with prices that, arguably, just weren’t sustainable.
One customer affected by Holidays 4 UK’s collapse reportedly paid £1,200 for nine return tickets. Can an airline really make any money from flying people to Turkey and back for £133.33 each? I’d imagine not.
You get what you pay for and maybe we should remember that if we are paying very little, what we may be getting is an element of risk. Before signing up for the deal, perhaps it’s worth asking if the money saved is worth the risk of having a purchase going horribly wrong. After all, there’s a lot of emotion invested in summer holidays.
Interestingly, some new Which? Travel research suggests that a significant proportion of consumers do agree that a cheap holiday deal comes with an ‘acceptable’ risk to their money.
So maybe some of the 50,000 people affected by Holidays 4 UK’s closure are simply shrugging their shoulders and ‘saying we knew it was risky’. But I’d imagine they are a minority. And would you like to try explaining that it was a risk worth taking to the boy in tears at Manchester airport?