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Published on Tuesday, April 7, 2020

British Travel Awards organisers defend new category

Organisers of the British Travel Awards have defended their decision to introduce a new category this year which is designed to recognise companies who have offered excellent support, customer service, communication and flexibility during the coronavirus pandemic.

An announcement about the new category yesterday drew criticism from some in the industry who said it was ill-timed and inappropriate.

Replying to posts on twitter, BTA CEO Lorraine Barnes Burton said the 'Best Supporting Travel Company' had been introduced in response to calls from customers asking how they can thank and reward companies who have gone above and beyond to help them with amendments to their holiday bookings during the crisis.

"For the avoidance of doubt, the BTAs are not asking companies to register for this award - it is being flagged as a category that the voting consumers have asked us to include," she explained in a clarification on social media.

"This category is planned to be an 'open vote' for consumers to nominate who they think were the best travel companies who helped to re-arrange, postpone or cancel their holidays - offering great customer service. We simply wanted to allow the travelling consumers the opportunity to recognise the fantastic service they have received from the travel industry."

The award had earlier been criticised by Holiday Extras national partnerships manager Lindsay Garvey-Jones, who said: "Judging by the amount of feeling for this 'award' from our industry colleagues today, would it not be best to direct those who are wanting your advice on how they can show appreciation to perhaps rebook, to stick with their suppliers in the future and not just cash in on an award?"

Derek Jones, CEO of Kuoni's parent Der Touristik UK, said of the award: "This deserves to backfire... we're all in this together. We are one travel industry doing everything we can to look after our customers at this very challenging time. It's not a competition!"

Travel PR Steve Dunne described the award as 'absolutely disgraceful' and said the 'timing and framing was awful' when 'emotions are too raw for this now'.

However, he later accepted it was well-intentioned after Barnes Burton responded saying: "I fear there is some confusion. Companies are not being asked to enter this category. Consumers will merely have an open option to let us know which companies have gone beyond to sort out disruptions and shown excellent customer service in extraordinary circumstances."

She later added: "Whilst the travel industry is currently shutdown I hope BTA will be part of the rebuild and consumer reminder of great industry customer service when things stagger back to normal. We will review, but consumers want to show gratitude. It's about future recovery."

She invited anyone who wanted to discuss the new award to email her direct at [email protected]

Voting for the 2020 awards will begin on July 27 and will continue until October 25.


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