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Published on Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Former Thomas Cook CEO backs 'It's Right to Refund' campaign






Former Thomas Cook CEO Harriet Green is backing the controversial  'It's Right to Refund' campaign launched by VIVID Travel MD Kane Pirie.


Green, who ran Thomas Cook for a little over two years from July 2012 to November 2014, when she left the travel industry, said money for cancelled holidays should be returned to clients as soon as possible, both for the 'survival of good-will' in the industry and the well-being of consumers. 


Pirie's campaign has also attracted the backing of Martin Lock, CEO at Silversurfers.com; Richard Carrick, non-executive director of Air Charter Service,  president of CIMTIG and veteran of the UK travel industry, and industry stalwart Terry Fisher.


Green, who received an OBE in 2010, said: "The future of brands and businesses are being defined right now by what we all stop, start and continue. We all have our lists of the good, the bad and the ugly businesses based on how they react right now in the moment.  Consumers, customers and many people are struggling as they are made redundant, furloughed and feeling lost in the vortex of financial ruin and extraordinary debt."


The non-executive director of BAE Systems, who is also a board member to the Singapore Economic Development Board, and was listed number 30 on Fortune's Most Powerful Women International last September, added: "It is easier for businesses to raise money than it is for many individuals to stay solvent over the upcoming months, and based on what I understand to be the fundamental ethos of the 'Its Right to Refund' campaign  I think monies should be returned to folks as soon as possible both for the survival of good-will in the industry and the well-being of customers." 


Fisher added: "I totally support 'Its Right to Refund'. It's fundamentally wrong to withhold client monies and vouchers are not acceptable. Everyone who asks for a cash refund should be given one. If businesses can't afford to refund it shows that they're not properly run businesses, and more like a Ponzi scheme. Business owners need to treat clients' money as exactly that - clients' money. Not cash to fund their business. This is totally unacceptable."


Lock said: "We conducted one of our many debates on Silversurfers last week to see how many of our members are due a holiday refund, and 81 per cent of over 1,000 who took part in the debate are due a holiday refund. We also placed the debate on our Facebook site where 5,000 people engaged with it. Most would like the payment for their holidays refunded, and there were a lot of very positive comments about Jet2 and P&O who are offering immediate refunds. But many of our members are upset they either have struggled to get in contact with their travel companies or are not being refunded which they do not expect. The over 50s take 58 per cent of all holidays in the UK and are very experienced and frequent travellers and expect high levels of customer service."


"Consumer trust will be paramount in rebuilding our industry and it is imperative that we carry our customers with us at a time when finances are tight for both them and us.  Travel companies cannot be seen to be openly breaking the law with blatant disregard for such trust, when we will be dependent on these very people for our recovery," added Carrick.


Pirie said he was 'delighted' with the response so far from people he has spoken to about the campaign. "The tide is turning on the debate within the industry. I am pleased to have leading lights fully endorse that customers' need their cash back, and share my concerns that the long-term impact of this situation on the market will be a lack of trust between consumers and holiday companies, which isn't in anyone's interest," he added.  


"Everyone knows that the industry needs support right now, but there are loans and other powerful new government initiatives to help with this.  Customers need their money back and need it back without unnecessary delay. Let's play fair." 


The 'Its Right to Refund' campaign has now got 6,000 followers and is growing at more than 1,000 supporters a day, said Pirie, meanwhile ABTA has launched its own 'Save Future Travel' campaign to persuade the Government to amend the Package Travel Regulations to give companies until the end of July to refund customers. 


 

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