New UK tour operator Biblio Travel finally went on sale last week having pushed back its launch four times due to the pandemic.
The Cyprus specialist had planned to enter the market in January this year for summer 2021 departures. Its first departures are now scheduled for next month from Gatwick, Manchester and Birmingham.
Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, managing director Clare Tobin said continual pushbacks had been “quite difficult decisions to make”, but added that not starting had also been a “blessing”.
“We haven’t had to keep doing that stopping and starting,” she said.
Tobin said securing an Atol licence had also been a “challenge”.
“In the middle of a pandemic, with obviously the focus being very much on operators that were trying to get their licence renewals, we were trying to fight our way through to get our new licence,” she said. “That wasn’t without its challenges, but we’ve come out of it very well.”
Tobin added: “We did an Atol starting from July, even though now we’re going to be starting in August given the latest notifications. So we have a licence for 96,000 capacity. And then we’ll be looking at a new Atol because our renewal is September, so we’ve just placed that in. And we will be operating next year, hopefully from April to October, so we’re going to lengthen the season for 2022.”
Biblio Travel has not joined Abta, instead establishing what it describes as a ‘golden trust’ account.
“I’m pleased to say we’ve also entered into a golden trust, which is part of the CAA. So we’re actually now putting all our agents’ customers’ money into a trust.” Tobin said. “I think that actually puts us in a great place to launch because our customers and the agents know their money is protected until after arrival back into the UK after the customers’ holidays.”.
She added that trust arrangements were part of a ‘triple lock’ reassurance policy for the trade.
“We’ve got the triple lock policy, which is firstly about having our golden trust – so making sure agents’ customers’ money is protected,” she said.
“We also have flexibility right up to the time of travel. So people have got all different ways that they can change, amend, and not have to worry for Covid refunds.
“And we also have a price promise. So if you’re looking for your holiday, and you see anybody else with the same package like-for-like cheaper than us at the time of booking, then we will match that price as well.”
Tobin added: “We also have price parity for agents. We know there are not many companies that have price parity anymore, so we hope it makes them feel confident that if they’re booking with Biblio Travel to Cyprus, then they know that they’ve got the right price, and we’re supporting them.
“I think the price promise is important because agents want to know that they can go to one place and feel that they’ve got a good price. Agents are really busy; they’re up against it so much at the moment. Also, we’re making sure that you get your refund within 14 days, which is one of our promises if something should change, so that people aren’t waiting for their money again.
“It’s about working respectfully and honestly with people. So I think these are the right policies and it’s all being driven by feedback from our agents so hopefully that’s going to give us some good focus on working with them.”