Published on Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Industry hits back over 'tourism sharks' comment

The travel industry has hit back at Michael Gove after he referred to travel companies as 'tourism sharks' in the row over school holiday price hikes.

In a column for The Times, the former education secretary heavily criticised the industry and called for regulation to stop companies raising prices during peak periods.

He made the comments after last week's Supreme Court ruling against father Jon Platt that upheld fines by local councils if children take term-time holidays.

ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer has now written a letter to the newspaper defending the industry.

It explains: "The reason that prices are so much higher in the summer months is due to high demand. It is not just British holidaymakers who want to travel at this time but many of our European neighbours also choose to holiday in July and August when good weather is virtually guaranteed.

"In low season many hotels, airlines and other sections of the industry have to discount prices to encourage people to travel."

Instead, ABTA said its members have long advocated that the dates of school holidays should be staggered by region in a coordinated way.

"This system has worked well in other countries, such as France and Germany, and has helped to alleviate some of the sharp peaks in pricing, expand the travel window and ease the pressure on family budgets," the letter said.

AITO chairman Derek Moore said Gove's comments were a classic example of someone who is 'opening their mouth and speaking without knowing anything about the industry they're discussing'.

"He clearly doesn't understand how the industry works and is taking two and two and getting five," he said.

Moore argued that regulating prices was 'unrealistic, unworkable, and commercial suicide'.

"It's all very well saying tour operator prices should be regulated, but tell that to the Greek hoteliers who can sell their rooms to anyone in July and August at higher prices," he said.
"It's not a case of putting up holiday prices in the summer, it's a case of having to discount at the beginning and end of the season in order to sell them.

"There might be some tour operators who will milk it a little bit, but the vast majority - and certainly AITO members - do not profit unreasonably."

He suggested that travel companies perhaps need to do more to educate the public about the way their businesses work and pointed to other industry, such as florists, who also adjust their prices according to demand.

"I'm sure if Mr Gove bought flowers for the good Mrs Gove on 15th February he'd get them a lot cheaper than on the 14th."

An ABTA spokesman said the association has been working hard to explain and justify school holiday price rises to politicians and the public.

"We have made this point over the years in literally hundreds of radio and TV interviews and we will continue to do so," he said.

"We also stress the need to book early and the efforts the industry does to help families such as free child places and discounted prices for children.

"More recently we did a substantial amount of work with politicians prior to a debate in parliament following a petition calling for school holiday prices to be regulated. MPs were properly briefed and concluded that the issue was simply one of supply and demand."

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  • Well Said Everyone

    As a small specialist tour operator, I agree with all the comments here, I've been trying to get the same point across for years too! Just imagine, if it were possible the a British government to force a cap on prices charged during peak, the hoteliers in all the popular destinations we Brits like would just say, fine, we don't need you, we can fill our rooms 3 times over with the French, Germans, Italians, Americans, Spanish etc, who will pay a sensible price to ensure we can continue to offer a good quality product etc. Why do people like Gove (and there are thousands like him who simply misunderstand the industry), assume that all British tour operators are money-grabbing crooks? Regulate prices by law and all those sun-loving folk who think we're all rip-off merchants, will have to settle for Bognor and Blackpool rather than the Balearics and Bali.

    By Keith Standen, Friday, April 14, 2017

  • Trust a politician? The British public do have a brain!

    Sadly, I don't think there are many people in the country that trust what politicians say these days, especially Mr Gove who has previous form of talking out of a particular orifice and then changing his mind moments later. I think politicians sometimes forget that the people in this country can actually think for themselves and understand the basic concept of supply and demand! Besides, if they don't want to pay high prices for holidays in peak season, there are always plenty of other options to choose from. The British public are quite capable of voting with their feet!

    By Christian Locke, Thursday, April 13, 2017

  • A Greek Hotelier !

    What is that you do not understand ? Well it looks like 'it is all Greek to you', def. not to me ! :) In all kind of business worldwide higher is the demand, higher is the price too, no ? Everywhere, no matter if you own a garage, a flower shop or a holiday company.The Tour Operators are not trying to rip anyone off, they are just trying to balance the big Loss they make, in the low season, when are selling Holidays in ridiculous prices and still people do not book. So how do you think a business works ? Offering everything for nothing ? So get more and pay always less ? Everything starts from the public, that always demands to pay less and less and get more and more and they do not realize that this turns to a boomerang and hits them....cheaper flights, cheaper holidays, cheaper transfers, fake claims and so long as we holiday for free ? No my friend, you will always get what you pay for and in Greece anyway you get much more from what you paid, not mentioning safety, food, sun, history and hospitality and friendliness of locals. So why do you think Tour Operators put their prices up when it is school holidays ? And in the UK you have at least 3 half terms during the Summer Season, well if you find it too dear in July and August, holiday then in May or October Half term. no ? Or maybe it is not as warm then ? So, for not giving several other examples, in few words you would like a Bentley but pay for a small Fiat yes ? Well this is not possible, sorry. And what is expensive? Do you know we Greeks pay the same you pay for 1 week HB holiday on Crete in a good Hotel, we just pay it for a return 35 minutes flight to Athens, just the flight ! And we have double taxes from you and half the salary...So stop moaning and book a holiday in the sun, Cheaper is not always better. Thank you and sorry for my poor English Michail Fotakis Crete Hotelier

    By Mixalis Fotakis, Thursday, April 13, 2017

  • What do you expect?

    Another example of 4th rate English politicians who have no idea what they're saying or doing.....

    By Bruce Taylor, Thursday, April 13, 2017

  • There is a great deal of difference between holidays and flowers...

    Just about every supplier of any product or service varies its prices according to demand and, as Derek Moore points out, florists put their prices up just before Valentine's Day, when the demand is high. But one factor that is often overlooked and is one of the main reasons why travel providers are so frequently singled out as profiteers, is a very simple one. Unlike most other providers travel suppliers have to show their prices for all their products, publicly and well in advance. It's therefore very easy for customers to look at, say, a tour operator's brochure and see that peak time travel costs far more than off-peak travel. But the likes of florists only show their prices on or near the day of sale. If florists were obliged to show their prices for all their products 18 months in advance then they, too, would get flack for putting them up around Valentine's Day and Mothering Sunday. But they don't and won't - not least because they have no idea what they will be paying for their stock 18 months in advance. Of course, there is the option of using the Ryanair system of only publishing a "from" price and not telling the customer to total until the time of booking - but I doubt whether that would meet with the approval of many package tour customers. I don't know what the answer is to the kinds of ill-informed comments we have seen here from Michael Gove, but mentioning the fact that it's very easy for customers to compare holiday prices and not at all easy to compare flower prices, might help a little.

    By Richard English, Wednesday, April 12, 2017

  • What a moron

    Regulate prices & nothing will get cheaper but prices will stay high all the time which is insane

    By Michael Anderson, Wednesday, April 12, 2017

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