Travel companies attempting to support their customers are not being helped by sporadic and contradictory communications, says Carrier managing director Mark Duguid
It’s Monday evening and, just as I prepare to switch off from work for the day, I take one final look at my two screens (if you haven’t converted yet to multiple monitors, it’s a game changer).
On my left hand screen “a government source” is reported as saying that talks are underway to ease the new quarantine rules for the Balearic and Canary Islands, while on my right hand screen an FCO alert announces that the advice against all but essential travel has been extended to the Spanish islands. Quite the contradiction!
I have attended several crisis management workshops throughout my career, and now find myself leading a company through this current crisis, and if there is one thing I know for sure it is the importance of clear communication. By this measure the government is failing us.
The updated advice over the weekend on travel to Spain was frustrating enough – announced by a journalist on Twitter rather than through official channels, contradictory as the FCO advice applied to mainland Spain only while the quarantine rule applied to both the peninsula and the islands, and all enacted with just a few hours’ notice – but we were well prepared for travel restrictions to be re-imposed so accepted the decision and took it in our stride.
Throughout this crisis I am sure my view chimed with that of most agents: respecting decisions made on public health grounds, while always seeking to do the right thing by our clients. This has meant being available when the phone rang, being flexible when required to offer refunds, awaiting official advice on when travel could resume.
So as travel restrictions were lifted last month, it felt like a corner was finally turned. At Carrier this meant the launch of a lates campaign, aptly titled Blue Skies Ahead, and for the last three weeks we have traded in the black, making more new bookings than cancellations.
All of which makes the latest announcement particularly disappointing. I do not for a second underestimate the challenge the government faces right now, but its announcements appear sporadic and contradictory. This latest one is especially bizarre given reports of low infection rates in the Balearic and Canary Islands, and, as briefed to the BBC, an expectation the quarantine would be reversed quickly. Of course, the impact will extend well beyond those due to travel to Spain and unfortunately also reduce the confidence of many who were contemplating travelling elsewhere this year.
Ultimately we will all do what we do best and ensure our clients are looked after: advising, rebooking and refunding as needed. Throughout this crisis the welfare of our clients has always been our paramount concern and we will all help them navigate this latest unfortunate and baffling change.
As I look back at my screen (the left hand one if you’re interested), I see a Zoom call in my calendar to discuss a Covid risk assessment in anticipation of my team’s return to our Didsbury office.
Just last week Boris urged us to get back to our offices to get the economy moving again. I know I’m not the only one who is longing to follow his advice, but also wishing that his government gives greater consideration to the UK’s much-loved travel industry in helping us to get back there.