The results of the latest TNS consumer survey for Travel Weekly may surprise the industry and dismay the Civil Aviation Authority as much as they confirm the value of financial protection to consumers.

The TNS study found four out of five holidaymakers who had been abroad in the past year rated financial protection important and 57% ‘very important’. Just one in 10 rated it unimportant.

The overwhelming majority in favour of protection was clear across all social classes, although it was higher among the lower paid (86%) than managers and professionals (73%).

Only 36% of Londoners viewed protection ‘very important’, while in Wales and Scotland 75% of respondents viewed it as ‘very important’. But 76% in London rated protection important overall.

Asked how they viewed the current protection scheme, which covers package holidays but not flights and accommodation booked separately, just 23% rated it ‘fine, so long as people know whether they are protected’.

Less than half thought all holidays should be protected (44%), but far fewer said all flights should be included (13%), while 5% said nothing should be protected unless consumers agreed to pay, and 9% didn’t care.

Among those who rated protection ‘very important’, five times as many wanted all holidays protected (57%) as all flights (11%).
Paying for protection.

Two-thirds said they were willing to pay more for financial protection than the current £2.50 rate of Atol Protection Contribution (APC) on package bookings – although opinions expressed to researchers may not match what people are prepared to pay in practice.

One in five (20%) weren’t willing to pay anything, 2% would pay only £1 and 3% expressed a willingness to pay £2.50. But 13% said they would pay £5 and 51% would pay £10.

The proportion willing to pay £10 fell below half only among those aged 25-44 and over 65. More than 60% in all age ranges expressed a willingness to pay more than the current consumer protection charge. The proportion unwilling to pay anything was higher among those with children (25%) than without (19%).

At least two out of three consumers expressed a willingness to pay £10 for protection in the northeast, Yorkshire, East Midlands and Wales, against only one in three in London.

Among those who rated protection important, more than two-thirds would pay £5 or more.

TNS queried holidaymakers on their recognition of the logos that most commonly appear on travel adverts and websites. It found 62% recognised Abta and 57% Atol, but just 9% Iata. One in four (26%) didn’t recognise any.

Age appears a key factor in the level of recognition. More than two-thirds of 16 to 24-year-olds recognised none of the logos. The Atol logo was more familiar than Abta among those aged 16-34 and recognised by half of 25-34s.

Abta scored most highly among holidaymakers aged 45-plus, with a 70% rate among 35-54s and 81% among the over-55s.

This may be because older consumers travel more with Abta-member companies, or may indicate Abta’s reputation was stronger in the past. Better-off travellers appear more likely to recognise Abta and Atol.

However, Abta recognition in London was just 33%, half the rate across most of the country, and Atol recognition 28% compared with 57% nationally. Half the respondents in London didn’t recognise any of the logos.

Half of all respondents thought the Abta name meant “a holiday is financially protected”, compared with 36% who correctly identified the Atol logo as signifying protection.

One-third believed none did, and almost half of those who viewed protection as important saw none as offering a guarantee.

Abta was wrongly viewed as a guarantor of protection by 70% or more of those aged 45 and over.