Hoseasons defends decision to impose fee for telephone bookings

Hoseasons has defended a decision to impose a £20 surcharge for all telephone bookings without informing agents in advance.

The self-catering specialist said the change had been introduced before Christmas with “no direct communication” but insisted all agents would be told if they phoned the operator’s call centre, and given the choice whether to continue their booking offline.

The company said the move, which also affects consumer bookings, was part of its strategy to invest in its online business.

A spokesperson said: “As a predominantly online business we have invested heavily in our digital capabilities to ensure the online booking journey is as clear and easy to use for agents and guests as possible.

“A small offline admin charge for phone support is not exclusive to Hoseasons and there are exclusions when the fee is waived, including when more information is required regarding arrangements for customers with disabilities or impairments. We remain committed to offering the best service to our customers and agents.”

The operator said it would “always support more complex bookings offline where required” but said most trade bookings were now completed successfully online.

Agents gave a mixed reaction.

The Advantage Travel Partnership chief commercial office Kelly Cookes said: “We have a commercial relationship with Hoseasons and will be discussing this with them should they notify us of this change.”

InteleTravel UK & Ireland managing director Tricia Handley-Hughes said the move appeared to penalise those with limited capability or connectivity and questioned the £20 fee.

“The trade will make up its own mind as to how the charge is calculated,” she said.

Westoe Travel director Graeme Brett said: “We’ve not had any issues with online bookings [but] we would not appreciate operators charging for call centre bookings if there had been problems with the website booking.

“It is not a small charge. In some cases that would represent half of the commission.”

Pole Travel director Jill Waite agreed it seemed “unfair” to target those uncomfortable with booking online but said: “It might send more people to agents to book online.”

Travel Stop owner Bridget Keevil said the agency made most of its Hoseasons bookings online, but stressed: “If you need to phone to make sure a lodge or cottage has certain facilities that may not be clear on their website, or cannot be booked online, they should waive the fee.”

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