Those of us who have been around for a while remember the collapse of Clarksons in 1974.

That led to the Atol system of consumer

protection. It also led to the formation of Aito in 1976 – a group of small operators seeking a way to put bonding in place to comply with the Atol rules. Regulations have always been adjusted to


Regulations have been adjusted before and can be so again

meet the requirements of a changing market. In 1992 came the first Package Travel Directive from Brussels, further strengthening consumer protection both for licensable and non-licensable packages. I remember several visits to Brussels with

Kevin Davies of the then-named Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). He was a real expert in anything to do with the regulations. I wish we still had him at what is now called the Department for Business (BEIS), which seems to lack the business experience to deal with the predicament we face. As time went on, both the Package Travel

Regulations and the Atol regulations have been tweaked from time to time to meet the requirements of the market, which continues to evolve.

Industry changes The biggest change followed the deregulation of EU air space and the coming of age of the internet. This signalled the rise of the OTAs. They

insisted they were merely agents for the service providers and therefore did not need an Atol as they were not creating packages. This growing trend alarmed the Atol regulator,

the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). So in 2012, it introduced Flight-Plus to legalise the OTAs’ way of working. Since then, further adjustments to the legislation have been made, culminating in the 2018

Package Travel Regulations designed to fit the then trading environment.

Unforeseeable crisis These regulations did not foresee and were never intended to cope with the arrival of Covid-19. The repercussions are neither the fault of the

tour operator nor the client. However, the 2018 PTR remedy is only in favour of the client – that is, a cash refund within 14 days – leaving the industry in a veritable mess in the current crisis. We know that Abta, the CAA and the

Department for Transport are pragmatic, with many years’ experience in dealing with industry collapses. They want to offer a breathing space to the industry by temporarily adjusting the regulations to enable cash to flow and travel firms to survive this blip. Consumers will not lose their money. They

would simply be asked to wait a while, thus sharing a little of the pain. The regulations have been adjusted before, and can be adjusted again, both to suit the client and the industry as a whole. Anyone in the industry who does not grasp

this undoubtedly has a different agenda – perhaps one that is self-serving, rather than thinking of the greater good of consumers and industry alike. Consumers, after all, would be far poorer should

the majority of the travel industry be forced into liquidation for no good reason other than cashflow being temporarily stymied by the current set of PTRs, in circumstances that no one could have foreseen a matter of months ago.

Read more columns by Noel Josephides:


23 APRIL 2020

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