Customers are getting increasingly nervous about the security of their money, and some who were previously happy to take a refund credit note are now demanding cash, according to agents.

Speaking on a Travel Weekly Webcast, Dorking Travel owner Alistair McLean said: “Every newspaper that we open, companies, not just travel companies, are going to the wall.

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“Customers need to understand that we in the travel industry probably have the best security for customers’ money than any other industry that I can think of. If they understood that, then they would be able to agree to going away next year and be satisfied their money is safe.

“But at the moment, people are getting nervous. And now we are seeing that confusion used as an reason to say ‘I’ve rethought it, and I now want my money back’.”

Asked if clients who had originally accepted Refund Credit Notes were now calling up wanting full refunds instead, McLean confirmed: “Absolutely. They want the money in their back pocket. In some instances, when this first started, we were able to be honest with our customers.

“I was saying to them, at the end of the day, you are propping up me as a travel agent, and you’re also propping up the industry. And if you’re happy to do that, then fantastic. And the relationship that I, and I think a lot of travel agents, have meant that honesty resulted in many customers saying to me, ‘that’s absolutely fine’.

“But in the past three or four weeks, with big names on the verge, they’re getting nervous and saying, actually, you know, I don’t mind if it’s six weeks’ time or eight weeks’ time, but I do want the money back.”

‘Lack of personal relationships’

McLean added that one thing the Covid-19 pandemic had exposed was “a lack of personal relationships”, which was sometimes impeding his ability to rebook customers.

“We all love this industry. And I speak to people who say ‘I wouldn’t do anything else’. But I’ve found that where I have a good relationship with the rep, who comes into my shop, I’ve been able to pick up the telephone and ask for a favour, and nine times out of 10 they can help.

“But of course, a lot of the on-the-road reps are now furloughed and we don’t have a relationship necessarily with that particular organisation – just the person. And that organisation doesn’t appear to have a relationship with the airlines,” he said.

“So it’s a really difficult one to square the customer…to say actually don’t pay the final balance and trust me, your holiday will not be arbitrarily cancelled by the tour operator.”

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