Atol reform is not happening fast enough given huge strains on consumer financial protection due to the Covid-19 pandemic and failures of Thomas Cook in 2019 and Monarch in 2017, say industry experts.
Industry regulator the CAA consulted on changes to the Atol scheme last year and will consult on specific reform proposals later this year. But a panel of industry experts brought together by Travel Weekly at this month’s ITT Conference in Istanbul to discuss reform expressed concern at the pace of change.
Travel Trade Consultancy director Matt Purser (pictured) said: “We’re trying to build a system that will stand the test of time. We have to accept regulators will always be reactive because there are innovators out there who will come up with something different.
“[But] the longer the consultation takes, the more it worries me. When reform finally comes in, it will already be out of date and we’ll be trying to catch up again.”
Will Plummer, chief executive of Trust My Group, said the CAA should incentivise firms to provide it with data to understand the risk to Atol properly before reforms are finalised.
He argued: “There is a danger that the longer the consultation takes the more it feels like business as usual, which is compounding the errors of the past.”
CAA group director of consumers and markets Paul Smith said: “We’ll come out later this year with a firm set of proposals [on reform], having had lots of engagement [with the sector].
“Our view will still be up for consultation. There will be an opportunity for people to shape that.”
He argued: “We should be open to people doing business in different ways rather than say ‘this is the way you must do it’.
“We’ve never seen our role as preventing all failures. You have to accept there is a degree of failure risk. But having been through Covid, having been through those larger failures, we have to ask, can we do things differently?”
Smith acknowledged: “There will need to be some thought about the implementation timetable. It depends on the proposals.”