Matt Hancock yesterday told ITV's This Morning show that it's unlikely "big, lavish international holidays" are going to be possible this summer. Whilst this comment in itself raises both questions as well as eyebrows - (what if I have small, modest international holiday instead, I hear you say) - it's another example of seemingly "off the cuff" remarks made by MP's which are hugely damaging to an industry which has been one of the worst hit by this crisis. It follows Grant Shapps' comment last month that he wouldn't be booking a summer holiday. Such comments dent customer confidence and hopes of a summer recovery for the industry - and discourage customers from making balance payments for holidays due to depart in July/August/September.
Holiday companies are dealing with cancellations on a 3/4 week rolling basis - a process which has been endorsed by BEIS in its recent guidance, which states that travel companies should deal with the most imminent travel plans first because the situation changes daily. Most travel companies are currently cancelling holidays up to the middle of June.
As such, most companies are still collecting balance payments for holidays due to depart after June. This has proved somewhat controversial, especially since most travel companies have terms and conditions which state that a failure to pay the balance will result in cancellation of the booking and retention of the deposit payment.
The BEIS guidance states that companies should not seek payment for a service they know they’ll be unable to provide. However where there’s a reasonable expectation that travel plans will happen, then customers should continue to make payments towards it. Although there is currently an FCO advisory against non-essential international travel "indefinitely" - it could be lifted at any point without notice. Furthermore, the government has talked about bringing in a 14-day quarantine period for people arriving from overseas - although we don't know exactly who it will apply to, and French arrivals are already exempt. It could be that further exemptions are negotiated as time passes. As such, you could argue that there's a reasonable expectation that holidays will happen later in the summer. It should also be noted that balance payments made by customers will be financially protected if the travel company failed, and if the holiday can't be provided - the customer is entitled to a refund. That said, companies are encouraged to be pragmatic - and some travel companies are extending balance due dates to appease worried customers.
The BEIS guidance also confirms that credit notes will be financially protected. However, it stresses that refunds should still be offered - credit notes are an alternative to refunds only where they are acceptable to customers. Practically speaking however, that's what Refund Credit Notes are for - to bridge the gap where a travel company is unable to refund a customer within the stipulated 14 days - essentially a promise of a refund which should be paid to customers within a reasonable period of time. Customers have the reassurance that those Refund Credit Notes are financially protected should the worst happen and the travel company fails.
Many British people are unlikely to be able to take foreign holidays this summer because of coronavirus, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said.