Low deposits on high-end bookings ‘risk leaving agents exposed’

Low deposits are stimulating demand for luxury holidays, but a leading agent fears they risk leaving the trade exposed to cancellations.

Sandra Corkin, owner of Oasis Travel in Northern Ireland, said she was “concerned” about low deposits being offered for high‑end holidays.

Noting “appetite for bucket-list trips in 2022, which is really good”, she warned: “Our staff are having to put a lot of hard work in to get a £10,000 booking with a £99 deposit.

“People will walk away from a £99 deposit, but not £500.

“A lot of agents agree. I don’t want it to seem like we’re not supporting operators, but we don’t want it to be widespread. Low deposits are OK for cheaper holidays but not bucket list or luxury. We can’t afford people to take up our time.”

Paul Cleary, managing director of Caribtours, said the luxury operator had dropped deposits from £300 to £150 to stimulate bookings due to “a lot of completely understandable customer hesitation” amid uncertainty when trips cost £10,000 on average.

He said offering lower deposits, “not quibbling” about cancellations and amendments and collecting balances “at the last minute” was “all we can do in a pandemic” to drive sales.

Cleary said Caribtours would shift to a 10% deposit rate when it emerges from the crisis. “It is appropriate we move back to higher deposits, because we sell expensive holidays,” he said. “There needs to be more commitment.”

Kelly Cookes, leisure director of The Advantage Travel Partnership, said low deposits were “always a controversial subject”.

“Striking the balance between encouraging customers to commit and ensuring the deposit is enough to lock the customer in is key,” she said.

Cookes said cancellations ahead of balance-due dates were often due to changes in customers’ circumstances rather than finding better deals elsewhere, and people needed longer to save for more-expensive holidays.

She agreed low deposits “stimulate the market” and reported little evidence of suppliers “going lower than they usually would” due to the pandemic. She said ensuring suppliers offered flexible booking terms was “critical”.

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