Tui Group faces a call to reimburse Caribbean hotels and resorts for services received for winter stays.
The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) warned that hotels are being placed in jeopardy by the failure of the European travel giant and other operators to pay money owed.
The association revealed that it has written to Tui UK and Ireland managing director Andrew Flintham calling on the company to join its competitors in settling debts to Caribbean hotels whose survival is under threat.
The association appealed in April for a response from operators that failed to reimburse hotels for first quarter stays by holidaymakers who had made their payments to travel firms well in advance of their travel.
The CHTA said at the time that operators around the world, including some UK brands, had stretched their payment to up to 120 days after client check-out, leaving them facing “survival issues”.
CHTA chief executive and director general Frank Comito has now spoken out against specific companies.
He said: “Most tour operators honoured their obligations, and we’ve been pleased to see that a number of those who had delayed reimbursements have settled since our appeal in April.
“But millions of dollars in reimbursements remain obligated and are jeopardising the hoteliers’ survival and ability to meet obligations, like taxes and labour expenses, because of the holdout by Tui and several other tour operators.”
He described efforts by Tui to advance amendments to payment terms for future contracts – claimed to be even more onerous for hoteliers – that would be tied to receiving the Q1 payments that are contractually owed, as “unreasonable and untenable”.
Comito argued that by failing to pay, Tui “appears to be in breach of existing contractual obligations”.
He added that these “distressed” hotels have been long-standing loyal partners, directly contributing to the build of Tui’s Caribbean book of business.
However, Tui responded by saying it is liaising with partner hotels to discuss a “payment plan for the remaining amount”.
The CHTA previously urged trade associations representing tour operators in Canada, Europe, the UK and US to address the delays in paying hotels for services already delivered.
Comito said that despite numerous requests to publicly identify tour operators that were withholding reimbursements, the association had refrained from doing so “in the interest of long-standing, mutually beneficial relationships”.
But the failure to act expediently left CHTA with “no choice” but to call out Tui and Canadian opertor Sunwing for allegedly still withholding payments.
Comito added: “We have acted in good faith, as have those impacted hotels, in seeking and awaiting a timely resolution.
“This has become a matter of survival for many small- to medium-sized hotel operators in the Caribbean, many of which are independent and locally owned and have been loyal clients for many years to Tui and Sunwing.
“While we understand that the pandemic is impacting the tour operators in a significant way as well, their financial obligations for services already rendered should take urgent priority.”
Comito said he received a response from Tui on Friday which, “regrettably, provided no immediate redress for financially impacted Caribbean hotels”.
A Tui spokesperson said: “We have long-lasting and very successful relationships with our partners in destinations which remain intact during these unprecedented times.
“Tui has put a number of measures in place to return the business back to normal operations in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.
“For the season which ended in March, Tui is currently liaising with all its partner hotels to discuss a payment plan for the remaining amount.
“We have been preparing to re-start travel operations as travel restrictions in Europe gradually are resuming and our local teams are in direct contact with all our partners in the destinations.”
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