The industry has ad enough

Richard SiddleWHEN was the last time you were attracted by a headline offer that in reality turned out to be far more than the advertised price? And how cheated did you feel as a result?


Spare a thought then for the average holidaymaker who is being lured by attractive deals only to find they do not include a host of hidden extras and are not a bargain at all.


The fact the trade is having to deal with a rising level of taxes, levies and charges is an argument for another day. It is how the industry is choosing to handle these costs – some of which are mandatory – and then include them, or not as the case may be, in their advertised prices which is causing concern.


Thomas Cook has had its knuckles rapped this week by the Advertising Standards Authority for not including fuel supplements in its late-deal promotions. Meaning a very eye-catching £69 holiday would suddenly become a not-so-enticing £100 deal.


But Thomas Cook, in this case, is simply the fall guy for what is an industry-wide issue.


If the ASA wanted to tackle every bit of what it deems to be misleading travel advertising, then it would be doing little else. But the sector needs clear guidance on what is and what is not acceptable.


The advertising code that covers this area states “advertisers must quote prices inclusive of VAT and other nonoptional taxes and duties”. On the face of it, this is clear enough.


But unless this code is strictly implemented, there are always going to be companies looking to bend the rules.


And where does this leave agents quoting net and base fares to their clients? A long-haul flight to Australia could add an additional £150 in taxes and duties on top of the net rate available to a retailer.


If it is frustrating for agents on the front line to deal with this, what impact is it having on the consumer?


Arguably the most effective piece of advertising in recent years has been Ronseal’s ‘It does exactly what it says on the tin’ campaign.


Not a claim the travel industry can currently boast about.