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Published on Sunday, April 19, 2020

Kane Pirie predicts bumper market for 2021

Kane Pirie, the man behind the It's Right To Refund campaign, believes the switch to remote working is a massive opportunity for the travel industry, and in more ways than one. Here, he explains why.

"Even though travel companies are overwhelmed by the scale of coronavirus cancellations they still need to look the future of 2021 and beyond. What will be the size of the market and opportunity then? I believe: massive; let me explain.

The world has changed. Coronavirus, and the strong reaction to coronavirus by national governments, including the lockdowns, means the proverbial meteor has hit the planet. The environment has altered. In consequence: there is a bit of a race now for us all to recognise that and adapt ourselves and the businesses we lead.

The full-time office is anachronistic. Women did not return to the kitchen after the Second World War; their place in society was changed forever. Your team will not stomach returning to five days a week in the office. The cat is out of the bag: we can work from home. At VIVID Travel we will like to 'test and learn'; the first plan is everyone on-site once a week, with management meeting up on a second day for all those exciting meetings.

The death of the traditional office is more than a silver lining. The positive knock on effects are truly exciting. It will be a massive boost for: slowing climate change, clearer air and skies, mental health and our own beloved travel industry. Why? The switch to Zoom does more than enable home working it heralds 'wolidays'. Your meagre 20 to 25 days holiday allowance is no longer a ball and chain to the location of the company office. For people who love their job this is like a gift from the gods. You can keep your family happy with an adventure to South Africa, for example, without fretting about your business/job. Take it with you!

The best wolidays will be put together by real travel experts as they will be multi-variant itineraries; different party members having variations of the core itinerary. This will see consumers value real travel experts more with an easing of the rush to DIY online holidays. There is good news here for us all but especially long-haul focussed/bespoke travel retailers.

Where is the catch? Trust. Trust is king. I would respectively urge you to reconsider your opposition to It's Right To Refund. We are, in effect, calling for a 'grace period' through to July 31 so you have time to get the proper finance in place. The Government position is hard to read but it seems like the CAA are suddenly too busy on other matters; travel retailers don't need to fear too much heat from them just now. You could choose to write to your customers, reference the campaign if you like, saying with the best will in the world it is not possible for you to process all the refunds due within 14 days of cancellation, much as you would love to do so. You are therefore openly and respectfully asking all customers, other than those in financial distress, if they could provide a short grace period through to July 31 2020. I think you will be pleasantly surprised. Mainstream media is now engaging with the campaign and I honestly think the 'Let's smuggle a long-term multibillion backdoor bailout from naive customers' master plan is doomed. It was doomed from the off. Turkeys don't fly.

So, the future is bright. It's time to look to the stars (you can see them more vividly now) take a breath and reassess. I offer you a positive view of a bumper market in 2021 for us all to enjoy. I invite you to join us with It's Right To Refund so I can support you in explaining your position with customers. Before travel, I also had a career in corporate finance. I also offer to try to help companies source the finance they need to battle though to 2021. There is only one condition: corporate finance comes from banks and shareholders, not customers. Let's now finally pull together as an industry to a balanced and respectable position: It's Right To Refund."

* Kane Pirie is owner of VIVID Travel, a bespoke online tour operator. He previously headed up Travel Republic, which famously won a landmark court case brought by the CAA over an alleged breach of ATOL regulations.

Pirie's It's Right to Refund campaign has attracted the backing of Martin Lock, CEO at; Richard Carrick, non-executive director of Air Charter Service, president of CIMTIG and veteran of the UK travel industry, former Thomas Cook chief Harriet Green, and industry stalwart Terry Fisher. It has now been supported by more than 10,000 people.

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