The courts are siding with consumers over agents when deciding whether a holiday is a package, regardless of what the paperwork says, delegates were told at the Hays Travel Independence Group overseas conference on Sunday (November 18).

Hays Travel founder and managing director John Hays told members at the conference in Benidorm, Spain, that the gap is shrinking between a dynamic package under the Flight-Plus Atol and a full tour operator.

“What we are increasingly finding is that when it gets to court, the judge’s view is that even if the paperwork says it is the agent and not the principal, the courts are taking the customers’ point of view,” said Hays.

“If the clients think they are booking a package, even if the paperwork says it’s a dynamic package, but the client thinks it’s a package, it’s a package.”

Hays said that previously, the judge would have ruled according to what the paperwork said, but now, courts are going by what the client thinks they have paid for.

“The gap is getting increasingly close,” said Hays. “I’m not trying to worry people but this is the direction the courts are going in.”

Challenges such as this are behind Hays Travel’s decision to strengthen its business by setting up its tour operation, Hays Faraway, as well as its bed bank, Hays Beds.

Hays said he was very pleased with how the company was doing, with strong sales since July,  and that Hays Beds was demonstrating that it was price-competitive.

“We are trading really well,” he said. “However, there are threats, and quite big threats, that are on the horizon and we can’t really continue to do what we have always done.

“These are challenging situations and I wouldn’t be doing my job if I wasn’t predicting the future and protecting ourselves so we can run a profitable business not just this year but next year.

“We are trying to keep calm and control our own destiny. If we don’t control our own destiny, our destiny is going to get controlled for us.”