When we’re booking our ‘dream’ holiday we can be unaware if travel companies go easy on the reality. So should they be doing more to tell us about how problems in different countries might affect our travel plans?
A journalist from a national newspaper rang me up the other day to ask my opinion on the Tunisia situation. ‘Wasn’t it outrageous’, he wanted to know, that some holiday companies were still selling holidays to Tunisia?
Is it outrageous, given the unrest in the country at the moment? Yes, of course it is if those holidays are being sold even though the companies know they will never be able to honour them.
As the advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is against all but essential travel to Tunisia, those making bookings for Tunisia will have their holidays cancelled or be offered a different destination until that advice changes. Even if they could get a flight out (and many airlines are still flying there), any standard travel insurance would almost certainly be null and void.
Dream holiday versus reality
Holiday companies sell dreams. They don’t want any hint or suggestion that the holiday may be ‘damaged’ in some way. The companies who offer packages also buy hotel rooms many months in advance and will lose out considerably if the rooms go empty. Of course they’ll have carried out risk assessments and the holiday company will bear responsibility if the holiday does not turn out as advertised.
But one could certainly argue that links to the Know Before You Go campaign could be made far more prominent at the booking stage so that people are fully informed about the country they’ve booked to travel to.
Tunisia aside, there are plenty of other destinations where risks may occur. The news is full of political struggles, natural disasters and social problems the world over. The FCO told me that according to their research only 38% of people say that they research a destination before they travel.
If this is true, then people either blindly book based on brochure pictures and price alone, or they must be relying on the companies they booked with to tell them about these issues. If it is the latter, then I am worried, and links to real destination advice at the time of booking need to be made much more prominent.