Advice issued for people considering a foreign holiday in 2021
The European Consumer Centre (ECC) Ireland is offering advice for people who are considering booking a holiday abroad.
With the arrival of vaccines, many people are considering sun holidays for late summer, autumn and winter 2021.
The organisation is offering the following advice:
Heavily discounted summer and Christmas 2021 holiday deals may make you want to book right now, come what may. A very real risk remains that your plans could be disrupted due to Covid-19. Indeed, thousands of holidaymakers are still struggling to obtain refunds from tour operators and airlines for trips cancelled during 2020.
So how can we avoid difficulties with a refund in the event that something goes wrong?
Firstly, check that outward non-essential travel is allowed (and under what specific conditions).
Secondly, if you travel for non-essential reasons, you may not be able to change or get a refund for your travel bookings.
Restrictions and lockdowns can happen overnight. It is imperative that you check the latest pandemic developments and travel advisories for your chosen destination. Plan ahead, keep informed, and check what is required in terms of vaccination, testing and quarantine at your destination but also in all of the places you are transiting on your way there.
Make it a package holiday. This offers the optimum form of consumer protection.
When a national lockdown is announced or travel advice for your destination changes, tour operators, unlike airlines, will cancel the holiday package contracts. Crucially, unlike all other forms of travel, the tourists can cancel the holiday themselves, with no financial consequences for extraordinary circumstances (such as Covid-19-related disruptions).
If your holiday is cancelled by the travel company or any of the service operators (airline, hotel, etc.), you could claim a refund from your card issuer for services not delivered. However, banks are not legally obliged to refund you and all chargebacks require thorough investigations, and can only be used as a last resort.
FLEXIBILITY IS KEY
If you are not booking a package holiday, research travel companies and suppliers that offer flexibility if you need to change your plans.
Take out travel insurance as soon as you book your holiday. Note though that travel insurance that covers you for Covid-19 related illness and disruption is not standard, and there are no comprehensive covers for it in terms of medical or logistical expenses.
Many Irish consumers would have booked holidays and independent travel with UK travel operators in the past. Post Brexit, there will be no 100% certainty as to how consumer rights will work out going forward.
From 2021, UK travel companies selling services into EU countries will need to meet local requirements for insolvency protection, i.e. will be bound to the standard protection obligations that exist in EU jurisdictions. It is important to note also that EU Package Travel Directives and Regulations were enshrined into UK legislation via transposition, and that this legislation has not changed.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Make a shortlist of travel companies that offer holidays to your chosen destination and check their track record for customer service and redress options over 2020 to get an idea on how they may deal with issues in 2021.
If you are resident in Ireland and you have a consumer dispute with a trader that is also based in Ireland, please contact the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.
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