The boss of Gold Medal and Travel 2 has described the Atol certificate as a “joke” and said tour operators must have full access to customer data in the event of a company failure.
John Bevan said it took over a week for the trade-only operators to get the details of tens of thousands of customers who had booked through Thomas Cook.
He said a number had even started to try and re-book holidays because they thought theirs had been cancelled.
“The CAA website told customers that they would get a refund if they booked a holiday with Thomas Cook, but it didn’t clarify what customers should do if they booked a holiday with a third-party operator (through Cook),” he said.
“While we were trying to get information from the liquidators, we started seeing customers re-booking their holidays.”
Bevan, who is chief executive B2B Europe, dnata travel, said he would be changing agency agreements to insist they have customer data.
“The only piece of information we get is a name, no contact details because in the past agents were fearful of operators nicking the customer and basically that has to change.
“Going forward we will need an email and a phone number because if we had had that information on the Monday we would have sent out emails and texts to tens of thousands of people to ‘relax, I’ve got your holiday covered’, even if I haven’t been paid because that’s my duty as a tour operator. The contract is between myself and the client.
“Hopefully our travel agent partners will understand that we at dnata have no interest in that data and we will of course put in the contracts and make very clear we are only using it should there be a catastrophic issue.”
Bevan told delegates at Abta’s Travel Convention in Tokyo: “The Atol certificate is a little piece of paper and a joke. It’s literally got the clients’ names, the tour operator you’re going with and the dates you’re going.
“It needs to have our details, for one, and you should have their details on there.
“The whole thing has got to move on. It’s a bit old-fashioned, we’ve got to think about the customer.”
Royal Caribbean International’s vice president and UK managing director Ben Bouldin said customer data was also needed when hurricanes, typhoons or “anything that changes an itinerary” occurs.
“There is more trust (between agents and operators) needed than what there has been in the past,” he added.