Abta has not registered a substantial rise in consumer pressure for cash refunds despite the total halt of travel and government insistence “now is not the time to book” a summer holiday abroad.
But Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer warned the financial pressures on companies are increasing and “we may see more” failures if restrictions extend beyond Easter.
Tanzer conceded: “There will be some customers who have run out of patience. They have booked and rebooked three or four times and think, ‘I would rather just have the cash now’.”
But he told Travel Weekly: “I have no data that shows that [happening] and we’re not hearing that from members. A lot of people still want to go on holiday and hope they will be able to do that this year or maybe next.
“They are happy to stick with a refund credit note as long as it’s protected.”
Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, Tanzer also insisted he does not foresee a ‘crunch point’ at which many businesses risk failure if travel cannot restart.
He said: “It varies company by company as to what the cash position is and resources.
“Obviously, the longer lockdown continues and the slower we are to get international travel going, the more the cash pressure is going to increase.
“[But] in the same way the market won’t open up with a ‘Big Bang’ – it will open gradually – it won’t close down with a Big Bang either.
“We’ve had 23 members fail since [last] March. If this carries on through Easter and beyond, we may see more. But I don’t think you can draw a line and say, ‘If we go past that point, it’s a radically changed situation’. It’s just the longer this goes on, the harder it gets.”
Abta maintained its ‘Travel with Confidence’ campaign through to the end of January despite the tightening restrictions, with an emphasis on ‘book with confidence’.
Tanzer said: “We recognise traveling since the new lockdown is not an option. But notwithstanding what politicians say, we think people are looking to travel, are hopeful they will be able to travel and booking a holiday makes sense.
“We still want people to book, maybe for later this year or the beginning of next year or next summer. We want to keep interest in booking holidays high.”
He argued: “Members are saying there is pent-up demand. Maybe people are booking for 2022 with more confidence than 2021. But as we move through the vaccination programme and we understand more about variants and about transmissibility, that confidence will increase.”
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