Have a burning question you can’t find the answer to? Be it travel trends, a regulatory riddle or destination dilemmas, send us your query for an expert response
With the ‘roadmap’ announcement by the prime minister and the rollout of the vaccination scheme, I am getting an increasing number of enquiries from customers looking to book later in the year, but some are asking what their holiday will be like when they arrive overseas? Are you able to tell me what kind of restrictions will be in place once we start to travel again? Anon
Firstly, it is great news that you are getting customers wanting to book travel arrangements and holidays; there is clearly massive pent-up demand and let’s hope travel recommences as soon as is possible, although clearly public health considerations must come first.
It is fair to say, some of the holiday experiences may be a little different, as we saw in the short window of travel last summer. But, rest assured, as part of the Covid-19 recovery process, destination governments in association with their public health authorities have been putting together their own specific recovery plans and health and hygiene initiatives. To help members navigate this, we have created a dedicated section on the Member Zone of the ABTA website called Country recovery plans, where we are hosting any information received from the country authorities.
In addition, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides comprehensive information on its country travel advice pages, which includes details of any restrictions, entry requirements, coronavirus measures, local laws and customs, and much more. It is essential that customers are signposted to this information before they book so that they can make an informed choice having read the information provided. They should revisit the travel advice on a regular basis.
It is likely that airports, accommodation, local bars and restaurants will continue to have Covid-safe measures in place, but not in a way that would prohibit customers from having an enjoyable holiday.
For example, in accommodations, face masks may be required to be worn in public spaces such as corridors and lobbies, and there may be modifications to meal services, such as waiter service instead of a buffet, and reservations may need to be made for using public facilities. These details are best checked with the tour operator or the accommodation provider directly.
Many local councils may allow bars and restaurants to place more tables outside to enable al fresco dining and socialising, which I think for many people is part of the pleasure of foreign holidays anyway.
At the airport, social distancing measures are likely to be in place as well as the requirement to wear face masks at all times, except when seated at a bar or restaurant.
Check with the airlines that you work with, as many of them have a host of information on their websites. They will be able to provide you with details of any specific requirements, such as the wearing of face masks on board the aircraft when seated and whether queuing for toilets is discouraged. They will also be able to provide you with reassurance of the measures in place regarding aircraft cleaning and disinfection protocols between flights and how the ventilation systems work on board the plane.
Once we start travelling again it will be very important that you help your customers to understand whatever restrictions may be in place. ABTA, the FCDO travel advice pages and tour operators will all be very useful sources of advice to help keep your customers informed.
Angie Hills, head of destinations
Each issue we speak to a different ABTA employee about their work. This time: Rachel Jordan, director of financial protection
Since joining ABTA as director of financial protection in late 2020, I’ve had a phenomenally busy first few months. Prior to working at ABTA, I had a financial services background working in risk and regulatory roles at KPMG, EY and the Financial Ombudsman Service – so I am new to the travel industry and have plenty to learn.
My role is to lead the financial protection team of finance and business managers and analysts who manage members’ financial returns, ABTA bonding, and bond and financial failure insurance (FFI) renewals. I also support the membership team with the financial protection aspects of new membership applications.
I work closely with John de Vial, director of membership and financial services, on ABTA Insurance PCC Limited, which provides ABTA’s reserve fund insurance policy as a BEIS Approved Body under the Package Travel Regulations.
A typical day for me is comprised of meetings with external ABTA members, partners or peer organisations; technical case discussions with the financial protection team; managing team operations; and performing ongoing risk-management activity concerning all aspects of financial protection. Occasionally, I co-present or speak at ABTA events such as the recent Refund Credit Note (RCN) Webinar and the Travel Finance Conference.
Bringing expertise and a fresh perspective from outside the travel industry, I have focused my attention thus far on understanding how the industry works, the relevant regulations, building relationships with colleagues, peer organisations, members and partners, and identifying ways in which the financial protection team can improve the experience of members. This has included reviewing and revising bond and FFI renewal communications and documentation, identifying trends in queries from members and developing a financial protection FAQ factsheet to address those (available now on the Member Zone of ABTA’s website), and establishing ways in which to manage new and evolving risks from a financial protection perspective.
Most recently, I have been collaborating with colleagues in ABTA’s public affairs and partnerships teams to understand some of the financial services issues affecting members and to bring these matters to the attention of appropriate external parties in the hope that this will effect positive change.
The Covid-19 crisis has presented a number of new challenges for everyone. My team continue to work remotely, under extended hours, to support members with their financial returns and financial protection renewals, and to respond to the significant increase in queries we are receiving from members who are understandably concerned about their cashflow and what the future will look like for their businesses. We are here to help and I welcome feedback on what more we can do to support members through this difficult time.
Looking to the remainder of 2021, I hope to meet many more ABTA members and partners in the months ahead (albeit virtually) and, like so many of us, I’m desperate to get away. With some much more positive messages coming from the government recently, I’m really looking forward to planning my next holiday, which will of course be with an ABTA member!