Lowcost’s failure ‘gave Atol boost’

The collapse of Lowcost Holidays this year reinforced the importance of Atol protection and that has benefited independent agencies, according to Hays Travel.

John Hays, managing director of the UK’s largest independent agency group, expects the collapse to spur a resurgence of the traditional package holiday.

“Package holidays are outperforming the market, not massively, but they’re coming back,” he said. “The main impact of Lowcost’s failure is to reinforce what we have seen for three years.

“The awareness of the Atol logo, and people asking explicitly if what they are buying is protected, has increased, which has to be good news for businesses like ours.

“Atol is all about financial protection. And in an uncertain world, knowing someone is on the end of a phone and will organise flights home is a growing trend that will continue throughout 2017.

“For a decade until two or three years ago the cool thing at dinner parties was to say ‘I did it myself and saved money’. That’s turned 180 degrees.

“The more sophisticated clients are starting to realise if they do it themselves they’re on their own.”

Hays was speaking at the firm’s Independence Group conference hosted on Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas last week.

He said a decision two years ago to stop dynamic packaging in Hays Travel stores had been vindicated.

“Everything we do in our shops we act as retailer for an Atol‑holder. Branch managers love it because they never have to compensate clients,” he said.

“We have opened 18 shops in 12 months, so it’s working.”

Hays’ in-house operator Faraway is now a significant supplier to IG members, but John Hays said commercial terms with all operator partners were improving.

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