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Lawyer: Build-up of RCNs is getting more dangerous

Ian Taylor

Two leading Atol-holders have urged the CAA not to extend the deadline for issuing refund credit notes (RCNs) beyond the end of this month. On the Beach and Trailfinders

instead called for cash refunds to be paid to consumers as a leading industry lawyer warned the amount of money owed in RCNs is becoming “more and more dangerous”. Krystene Bousfield, head of debt

recovery at Travlaw, told a Travel Weekly Future of Travel forum:

“Huge sums are going to have to be paid back when we come to the RCN [expiry] deadline.” The CAA has confirmed it is in

talks with the government to extend both the March 31 deadline for issuing RCNs and the September 30 expiry date (Travel Weekly, March 18). Bousfield said: “The deadline

keeps getting pushed back, which is helpful, but are we just prolonging the inevitable? We’ve had clients asking, ‘Do we have to pay these monies on the deadline?’ Yes, you do.” She warned: “People need to be ready. It’s not going to be a case of

Krystene Bousfield

travel opens up and we’re back to normal. There is a huge balancing exercise – getting money in from bookings, setting it off against RCNs. “We keep relying on RCNs, but

they’re increasing in number. “This is all going to come to

a head. It gets more and more dangerous as we go on.” CAA group director of consumers

and markets Paul Smith told the forum: “We’re conscious the two dates need to work together. We don’t want to end up in a situation where

we concertina the need to use RCNs into a very short period.” Abta confirmed it is also

considering extending the deadlines. However, On the Beach chief

executive Simon Cooper said: “Extending the RCN deadline only kicks the can down the road. It’s not fair consumers have their money locked up in these vouchers.” Trailfinders chief executive Toby

Kelly agreed: “Atol-guaranteed RCNs should not be extended any further for issuance or validity.”

Palethorpe says support will change Lucy Huxley

Carnival UK has pledged to invest in trade support but how it does so will not necessarily be the same as before the pandemic. Speaking at the Travel Weekly

Future of Travel Spring Forum, president Simon Palethorpe said Covid had changed the way everyone in business works. “We’ve discovered all sorts of

ways we can work that we never dreamed were possible,” he said. “Who would have believed that

we could do so much over Zoom or do so much working from home? “It’s going to challenge a lot of the

ways in which we work in the future.” Asked if he would build back up

the on-the-road sales team for P&O Cruises and Cunard, which was reduced at the start of the pandemic, Palethorpe said: “We will be investing in our agent support but I’m not convinced that will look exactly the same as it did prior to Covid.” He said he “absolutely” planned

more virtual training and events, but added: “I don’t want us to go 100% of the way there.” Palethorpe stressed: “There’s

always going to be a role for personal relationships and meeting people and being with people.” He thanked agents for their

support in the past year and said “we’ve been trying really hard to support agents as much as we possibly can”, noting regular contact,

Simon Palethorpe

reward incentives, bonus commission and extra Shine Rewards points. Palethorpe said he hoped recently-

announced sailings in UK waters by P&O and Princess Cruises, for which passengers will be required to have

received both doses of a vaccine, would give agents some “much- needed revenue and support”. He was also bullish about a return

of international cruising from the third quarter of the year. Palethorpe told the forum

international sailing would not start for “quite some months”, pointing out “we’re not only beholden to the UK authorities to give us the right permissions to sail internationally”. “I’m hopeful things will start to

open up quite significantly across many of the countries we’d want to sail to,” he added. “Many of them are desperately keen to get cruising back into their ports and fuelling their

economies. I remain very optimistic.” i Domestic cruise sales, pages 9 and 16

25 MARCH 2021 7

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