It is in “everyone’s interests” for the travel industry to have an “unequivocal” financial protection scheme, according to the chief executive of Travel Counsellors.
Steve Byrne said the homeworking group, which has always kept its customers’ money in trust rather than using it as working capital, is in a “fortunate” position ahead of potential Atol reforms.
The Civil Aviation Authority received more than 300 responses to its Atol Reform consultation, which includes proposals to move the sector to trust arrangements and introduce varying rates of Atol Protection Contribution (APC) on holiday bookings.
No decision has yet been made on the proposed changes, and a second consultation document is due in spring 2022.
Asked about the issue on a Travel Weekly webcast, Byrne said: “You can see the direction of travel is to move towards a combination of trusts and bonds to provide a financial guarantee to customers – and that is to be encouraged.
“The extent to which it’s implemented has an impact on individual companies’ working capital.
“So we were fortunate, along with a few others, that we weren’t using customer money to fund our working capital before the pandemic.
“It’s in everyone’s interest if the industry can say it’s got an unequivocal scheme of financial protection for a customer when they book, no matter how they book, whether direct or through an intermediary, and we all have to do what we can to support that.
“It’s powerful to be able to say you’re part of something where the customer’s money is financially protected and the company is so financially secure, it’s not using your money to run its business.
“If I was an agency owner, or travel consultant, I want to be part of a business that can say that.”