The profile of traditional tour operators has been boosted with a new consumer report saying package holidays are likely to work out “considerably cheaper” than DIY bookings to the same destination.

Packaged trips also offer far greater protection if a holiday is affected by coronavirus or other disruption, research by consumer group Which? found.

The study concluded that package holidays were better value in eight out of 10 cases – with the biggest saving more than £400 on a holiday to Greece.

The consumer champion looked at the price of the cheapest packages available online from five UK airports from both Jet2holidays and Tui and compared them with the cost of identical DIY holidays.

Holidaymakers opting for packages could save hundreds of pounds on the cost of their trip, while also avoiding the risk of losing their money if they can’t travel due to government restrictions, lockdown or if their airline or hotel goes bust.

Which? researchers calculated the cost of the DIY holiday using the cheapest air fare from the same airport on the same date as the tour operator package, and included one check-in bag per passenger. The cost of return airport transfers was also included in the DIY bookings if these were included in the corresponding package booking, to create an identical holiday.

The biggest saving was £442, for a two-week holiday for a couple flying to Rhodes from Bristol, booked through Tui. The same holiday with travel and accommodation booked separately would cost £1,025, compared to £583 when booked as a package – an increase of 76%.

The average saving across the eight packages that were cheaper than a DIY booking was £157.

Only two packages worked out more expensive than their DIY counterparts – one Jet2holidays trip to Salou and one Tui holiday to Majorca.

But even when it was cheaper to book flights and hotels independently, the maximum saving was only £31 per person – arguably a negligible amount given the protection holidaymakers would be sacrificing through not booking a package.

However, the Covid-19 crisis has shown that while booking a package offers holidaymakers greater protection in the face of a number of problems, not all package providers have abided by the law on refunds when holidays have been cancelled, with some companies doing a much better job of swiftly returning money to customers than others, Which? asserted.

While some operators have struggled to claw back money from airlines for cancelled flights, others have chosen not to refund customers within the legal 14-day window.

Customers booking a package should consider booking with a tour operator that has paid refunds for cancelled holidays swiftly over the course of the pandemic, according to the consumer champion.

Which? Travel editor Rory Boland said: “Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been urging holidaymakers to book a package if they were considering a holiday over the summer or are looking to book for next year, given the unparalleled protections they offer if things don’t go to plan.

“Many people are put off booking a package because they worry they’ll have to pay more than booking their flight and accommodation separately, but as our research shows, a package could save holidaymakers hundreds on the cost of their holiday.

“Not all holiday providers are equal though. Anyone planning on booking a holiday for 2021 should strongly consider booking a package with a reputable provider that has treated customers fairly in recent months, to ensure their cash is protected if something goes wrong.”

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