Swords Travel co-director Mark Swords is thinking twice about taking some bookings for fear of facing fees

Over the last month, it really has felt like some sense of normality is returning and we are seeing clients feeling a lot more confident to travel.

But as a business owner and an agent, my biggest worry is am I doing all this hard work for nothing? I feel like I need to assess every booking to make sure that should things not go to plan, how would it affect my business financially.

“If this booking cancels, aside from the numerous hours of work that have gone into it, I will be stuck with a £420 credit card fee by the time the balance has been paid.”

An example of this is a booking I made last week. The client wanted to go to Mauritius and the deposit on the booking was £10k. Normally we’d be getting that salesperson’s buzz – I’ve got a new booking! – but in the back of my head was a worry: what if this cancels?

The client wanted to pay by Amex, which we don’t accept due to the high charges involved. The only other card she had was an international credit card, which carries a 1.8% charge, so not much different really. But I thought, if this booking cancels, aside from the numerous hours of work that have gone into it, I will be stuck with a £420 credit card fee by the time the balance has been paid.

Injustice

It seems like such an injustice that you can put in all this work but then not only do you not get paid, you also have to pay for the privilege.

Of course what the above boils down to is the change to the credit card charge regulations and, to an extent, the Package Travel Regulations.

The share of the burden or risk is so unfair. Consumers, quite rightly, should have protection; merchants still get paid; but as a travel agent or direct tour operator, you have nothing and end up at a loss.

“Some people may ask why we don’t ask clients to pay via BACS, but with the current scenario, more and more people want to pay by credit card to gain more protection.”

There needs to be changes to the current model as it’s just not sustainable. I don’t know what that looks like but I’ve seen attraction and concert ticket companies just recently stating in their T&Cs that if the booking cancels and the client takes a refund, the amount paid back will be minus the credit card fee they have been charged.

I think every client should be entitled to a refund, but I also think we should be paid for the work that we do and not be penalised by crazy credit card charges. Some people may ask why we don’t ask clients to pay via BACS, but with the current scenario, more and more people want to pay by credit card to gain more protection.

Change

I absolutely love my job but I think over the last four months our industry has been at the bottom of the pile. What astounds me is that insurance companies get away with not having to fulfil claims – it’s all been left to the airlines and tour ops (regardless of whether they’re getting that money back, which is another flaw of the PTRs).

“If we do get a second infection wave, is it fair for businesses to go through all these problems again? Of course not. It’s time these regulations were readdressed.”

We need change, and we need it soon. Otherwise a lot of companies will end up bearing costs that they simply can’t afford.

If we do get a second infection wave, is it fair for businesses to go through all these problems again? Of course not. It’s time these regulations were readdressed.


MauritiusSHUTTERSTOCK

What’s selling well for us

Over the last four weeks, we have seen a huge spike in UK enquiries, unsurprisingly, but our most popular destinations for bookings without a doubt have been the Indian Ocean and Middle East. Maldives has been our number one, with clients flexing budgets to splash out on business upgrades and overwater villas.

It’s been followed by Mauritius, Dubai and Oman. Most clients are looking to travel from October onwards, with festive and February half‑term also proving popular. Let’s just hope we get some updated news shortly on Mauritius and the UAE so we can start to sell in confidence as we know clients will travel.

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