Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: Holiday dreams turn to nightmare

It is, sadly, not an unfamiliar tale. Thousands of holidaymakers have either been stranded abroad or had their holiday dreams dashed by the collapse of a travel company.

And again, travellers are left wondering if anything could have been done to help them earlier. For apparently there were rumours for some time that the company, Goldtrail, was in some difficulties.

According to the travel regulators, there was a delicate balance to be struck. They allowed Goldtrail to continue trading in the hope that business would pick up and that it could ride out its financial problems. That was a laudable approach - how often do companies complain that they are foreclosed too early? - but there was always a danger that in the end it would be the customers who would pay.

They will not lose out financially as Goldtrail was protected under the ATOL scheme - a warning that it is essential; pick a bonded company when handing over hard-earned cash for holidays - but it could take months, even up to two years, to get full refunds. In the meantime, the customers are out of pocket and, in many cases, unable to afford another holiday this year.

And those stranded abroad also faced demands from some hoteliers for extra payment, or else face eviction. To them the protection offered by ATOL seems little consolation, although they have been advised not to give in to such demands. That is easier said than done if travelling with a young family and facing the loss of accommodation.

While the travel industry is a volatile one, surely the protection of the travelling public should be the paramount concern of statutory authorities.

If companies are allowed to take bookings right up to the moment that they collapse, then it would seem fair that customers be refunded quickly if their holiday plans turn sour. Having to wait months, never mind years, to get their money back seems grossly unfair to totally innocent parties.

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