Tour operators reassessing partnerships after pandemic, says dnata chief

Tour operators have been forced to reassess partnerships after the Covid pandemic exposed significant risks around implementation of the Package Travel Regulations and foreign office advice, the boss of dnata Travel has said.

Speaking at this year’s Travel Convention, chief executive John Bevan said the industry had been taught a lesson by the pandemic, and said the crisis had “blown everything wide open”.

Bevan said reform was needed so that the PTRs control every element of the package and said things had appeared “simple” before the pandemic exposed flaws in the system.

He said: “The FCDO would put out advice against travel to a destination because of terrorism or natural disaster and everyone aligned. They looked at repatriating people as quickly as possible and people due to travel would have refunds or free amendments.

“But this summer, the world reopened and then Spain went into the red, but certain airlines carried on flying and they did nothing wrong. They’re not under the same regulations and they could absolutely fly.”

He added: “What that showed is that the PTRs, for a tour operator to adhere to, need to control every element of the package. Today, in the way that the internet has developed, we are selling packages that sometimes aren’t as tight as they can be – so with the low-cost airlines, they have their own rules.”

Bevan said it was still possible to “make it work going forward” but that it would “come down to having better partnerships” and warned that it would lead to operators moving business to those partners that would abide by the PTRs.

He said: “It’s forcing us to remove certain partners. We’ve removed a certain airline because they won’t play ball and now we’re having to work harder so that we can say to clients, if they book this package, they’re fine because we have agreements in place on the various elements, which means they will get their money back.”

Bevan revealed a number of the businesses within dnata Travel UK had introduced a Covid waiver on bookings in the last two weeks “because we had to” and said the whole industry should adopt the same approach.

“Customers were not shocked by it,” he said. “An interesting stat for you – when Turkey turned red recently, those who had booked before wanted a refund, but of those that booked having signed the waiver, 80% still wanted to go, knowing there was a risk.”

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