Travel experts warn against booking holidays
The consumer champion is concerned that plans to restart holidays could be doomed to fail if the government doesn’t reassure travellers that trips abroad will be safe, affordable and their refund rights will be upheld.
The news comes as the government hinted that summer holidays abroad were unlikely to be allowed until August.
Culture secretary Oliver Dowden told Sky News there were “challenges around international travel” in the face of rising coronavirus infection rates in Europe, but that “all options” were being looked at as part of a review of foreign breaks.
There is currently a £5,000 fine for going on holiday.
The taskforce is due to outline how it will restart international travel, currently set to reopen no earlier than 17 May, when it publishes its report in early April.
However, Which? is concerned that limited opportunities for travellers to engage with the taskforce could mean that their concerns won’t be addressed ahead of international travel reopening.
The taskforce is consulting with a range of groups, including the transport industry, international partners, the tourism sector, the private testing sector, and academia and policy institutes.
However, engagement with consumers seems to be limited to an email address that travellers can send their concerns about travel reopening to.
Which? is urging people to share their experiences with the taskforce of how the pandemic has affected their travel plans over the past year and their concerns ahead of travel reopening.
The past year has seen numerous stories about how people have been let down by their travel provider after the pandemic grounded most international travel.
According to the Competition and Markets Authority, cancellation and refund complaints have accounted for the overwhelming majority of complaints to the regulator since April 2020.
More chaos ahead
Which? is warning that travellers risk facing another summer of chaos and cancelled holidays if the government doesn’t provide assurances around safety, testing costs, health travel certificates, and how bookings will be protected from changing travel restrictions and associated costs.
Given the limited data available on the ability of vaccines to reduce transmission, Which? is asking the taskforce to ensure that clear guidance is in place for airports to facilitate social distancing.
Which? is also concerned that travellers could face astronomical costs for testing, which is likely to be required for entry into most destinations this summer.
Most countries now require a negative Covid test before departure and a follow up on arrival, and passengers also need a negative test to return to the UK, and further tests on day two and eight of quarantine.
With private tests costing about £120 each, the potential of up to five tests could mean travellers face paying hundreds more on top of the cost of their trip, potentially pricing people out of travelling.
Which? also has concerns about the possible need for ‘vaccine passports’ and says people need reassurance over how these will operate internationally. It says it is essential that if certification is to be mandatory for travel, that it is provided free of charge.
The consumer champion is also urging the taskforce to consider how travelers’ money will be protected if they cannot legally or reasonably travel to their destination because of coronavirus restrictions.
Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said: “Many of us are looking forward to the opportunity to step on a plane and travel to family and friends or take a holiday again in the near future, but the past year has taught us that there are a number of risks involved with international travel that need to be removed or reduced before we will be comfortable doing so.
“Confidence in overseas travel has plummeted as a result of the pandemic, and government interventions for both the industry and passengers who have been let down by their operator or airline have been woefully insufficient. The taskforce has a real opportunity to give passengers the confidence to travel again, but it must take their concerns into consideration, or else it risks another disastrous summer for passengers and industry alike.”