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Published on Sunday, April 5, 2020

FCO 'indefinite' travel ban prompts fear of mass cancellations

Travel agents fear the Government's decision to extend its global leisure travel ban will cause further fear and confusion among holidaymakers and prompt more cancellations.

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) announced this weekend that it was extending its advice to avoid all but essential travel anywhere in the world for an indefinite period.

It had earlier announced, on March 17, that Britons should avoid all non-essential travel for a month, effectively until April 16, forcing travel companies to cancel holidays at least until then. The latest update from the FCO has left travel agents wondering if this means that all future bookings must be cancelled since the Government hasn't indicated when it's safe for holidays to resume.

ABTA has attempted to reassure members that the FCO update doesn't mean all holidays must be cancelled. In a statement, it said: "Although the advice has now changed for an indefinite period, this is now in essence the same as any 'all but essential' travel advice and it could be removed at any time. As such there is no change to the advice for members and customers in this regard.  

"Travel companies can still look at imminent departures and decide how far in advance they will begin to offer alternative arrangements/refunds or equivalent options."

Nevertheless, agents are concerned the FCO update could lead to some customers demanding refunds. Posting on the Facebook group Travel Gossip, one agent wrote: "It opens the doors to mass cancellations for the rest of the year now surely?? The government need to really get on this, our industry needs guidance now."

While many agents insisted that the FCO advice doesn't change the status quo as there has never been a definite date to when travel restrictions will be lifted, some agreed that it will cause further unease amongst customers who might be looking to book or re-book for travel in 2020 or 2021.

 "I think customers will panic and the chances are start demanding full refunds instead of vouchers and refusing to book for 2021. Situation still the same but now nothing to hold back the panic and demands. Its opening flood gates. We all know the reality is it's always been an unknown date when travel will resume but now we have nothing to fight them off with and no order to the process."

Another wrote: "It opens up the door to mass cancellations for all of 2020 as no definitive date mentioned. Expect calls for rest of years travel now."

Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said: "While it is right the government extends its advice, the FCO's decision to make the time period indefinite will cause a huge amount of confusion for anyone who has foreign travel booked in the months ahead.

"The travel warning should be extended to a definitive date, which can be reviewed if needed, so that travellers have some much-needed clarity around refunds, rebooking or claiming on insurance.

"The government, travel sector and insurers must work together to ensure that any emergency measures introduced in response to this crisis include strong guarantees or protections to prevent consumers from losing their money if a travel firm fails."



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  • Let"s face it...

    We will not emerge from this crisis the same industry that entered it. Confidence will be damaged and disposable income constrained. We cancelled and refunded all clients holidays up to June and expect to be doing so further. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst. All the best to those of you "caught in the middle".

    By Gary Boland, Monday, April 6, 2020

  • The horse has already bolted.

    Perhaps the UK is unique even in this, but we've seen mass cancellations around the globe. UK travel agents and tour operators need to realise there is no quick fix. You won't be selling anything that departs before September at the earliest.

    By MARK WHEELER, Monday, April 6, 2020

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