Local lockdown restrictions are currently causing an ever-increasing headache to tour operators across the UK.
Although the restrictions are at present primarily affecting tours from the North of England to Scotland and Wales, even with the new three-tiered system, this situation is rapidly developing, with limitations potentially being imposed anywhere in the UK, often at very short notice.
Seemingly the last thing you might think to look at, but well drafted terms and conditions of business can often help you out of many of the situations that may arise.
If you are an operator operating tours which books accommodation for its customers, there are additional complications which are arising in these extraordinary time. There have been reports of some hotels already refusing refunds to operators where tours are cancelled as a result of local restrictions, relying on terms and conditions in their original booking contracts with the operators to allow them to do so. This has happened despite tour operators following official guidance in cancellation of tours, and in some circumstances where it would have been illegal to have continued with the operation of the tour.
So what can coach operators do to prepare for, or react to such a scenario?
The starting point is always to maintain maximum communication between yourself as the operator and your service providers. Good communication of the issues each party is experiencing, particularly during unprecedented times such as these, often minimises the risk of disputes arising.
Along with communication the most important practical step you can take when problems arise, is to dust off the terms and conditions in place between yourself as operator and the hotel or other service provider. Do they provide for this type of scenario and if so, what is the refund policy? If you are not sure, we can provide a review of your terms and conditions to answer specific questions like these for a fixed price. The solution to your problem may be contained within this document.
The operator should also review all terms and conditions with your own customers to see if they you required to pass on any refund they receive from hotels/service providers to the customers. In the interests of maintaining good customer relationships it is likely that most operators would choose to reimburse customers where possible, however with the end to the pandemic and it’s knock-on effects not yet in sight, operators may wish to amend their terms and conditions to allow them to retain some of, or entire customer deposits if they are forced to cancel tours due to lockdown restrictions. Customers would then need to recover any losses under their travel insurance.
The key to maintaining customer confidence throughout these testing times is providing clear terms so that customer can make informed decisions at the point of booking.
Backhouse Jones can assist in providing a full review of your terms and conditions with all relevant parties and provide you with an assessment of your legal position if a problem has already arisen. If this is an area you are not currently struggling with, we recommend getting a review of and if need be, having the necessary amendments made to your terms and conditions to make sure you have the best level of protection “before the event”, to protect you if an unforeseen issue arises.
Please contact Lydia Ward or Brett Cooper in our Commercial team at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 01254 828300 if you would like specific advice or a price to review your terms and conditions.