An Open Letter to the Travel Industry

Dear Travel Industry

HolidayTravelWatch is now approaching its 20th anniversary; I am also enjoying my own 12th anniversary at the helm of the Organisation!

I thought now was a good a time as any to write openly to you and share some thoughts on matters of mutual interest.

Through the years I have met some very nice Travel Industry people indeed; professional, dedicated to Consumers and believing in the value of the holiday product.

Equally I have met some members who are less than appreciative of the role of HolidayTravelWatch and I have experienced heckling, some have thrown their business cards at me, some are outwardly hostile; I guess that’s just politics!

By contrast, I have always offered respect to your Industry, but I have never been shy at highlighting Consumer concerns when you don't get it right.

None of this should be news to you and you should realise by now that this is what Consumers expect of us in return for offering their story; they do not have the confidence of voice nor do they have the extensive resources that your Industry can call upon to raise their concerns.

During my tenure I am very proud to say that we have confronted many issues and won some arguments; the main issues include:

  1. The Package Travel Directive;
  2. EC Regulation 261/2004;
  3. Ships Safety;
  4. Cabin Air Quality;
  5. Carbon Monoxide & Toxins;
  6. Travel Insurance;
  7. Kids Clubs;
  8. Risk Destinations;
  9. Significant Changes in contracts;
  10. DIY vs Package holidays;
  11. Agent for the Consumer, and the latest challenge
  12. TTIP!

In making the Consumers voice heard we have appeared before the UK Parliament, addressed the EU Commission and Member States, met with EU Cabinet Members, EU Civil Servants, MEP’s, MP’s, submitted detailed reports to the EU, UK, USA and Australian Jurisdictions and we serve on 2 International Committees in trying to develop a Standard on Cabin Air Quality. We achieve this all on an annual lobbying budget of €6,500 per annum!

We have much yet to do, but, in recognition of our contribution to the travel debate, what's the best that you as an Industry can come up with when commenting on our work? Praise? Professional Respect?

We have had many reactions over the years, but it seems that some of you now believe that we are nothing more than part of the evils of the so-called ‘compensation culture’ and no doubt believe that we are simply involved in the ‘claims business’. Are some of you raising this argument because you have lost some of the arguments or is it the case that you actually believe in this ‘compensation culture’ rubbish?

Those that express such claims really need to understand what is meant by so-called ‘compensation culture’. The ‘compensation culture’ argument is nothing more than a myth created by tired politicians, when in fact there was never any evidential basis for such a claim. It might help you to read some of our articles on the myth that is ‘compensation culture’:

  1. Our Open Letter to Lord Young;
  2. Compensation Culture and the Con against holidaymakers;
  3. Our analysis of the ‘compensation culture’ & holiday claims;

If what I hear is correct, I can only conclude that you are concerned with the overall effect of our work in bringing about change for the Consumer and that some of you are perhaps trying, somewhat amateurishly, to blackball the organisation from a wider engagement?

If this is correct are we also correct to presume that this is an attempt through some aerosol expression to create some disgust about our work?

If these negative perceptions are correct, I would say that the Industry needs to consider carefully any accusation of ‘compensation culture’ because some of you do not occupy the high ground!

You only have to visit the various social networks to see that your Industry are considered to be the principle originators of operating a reverse ‘compensation culture’. It appears that some of you prefer frustrating Consumers instead of curing or preventing the many ills associated with travel – it is your actions which has led to so much Consumer angst and ultimately litigation!

So to help you understand what we do, I thought I should set out a few simple facts!

We empower some 30,000 individual holiday complainants each year to stand up to some of you and your failure to deliver quality holiday products.

Of that 30,000 some 10% or less have what we would call difficult claims.

The majority of those are helped with various strategies to try and deal with their problems and it is less than 1% who actually have no choice but to seek legal assistance.

The other side to our coin, as I have demonstrated above, is that we capture the Consumer story and ensure that those in power hear what they have to say.

Guess what? We declare fully and openly our activities through the EU Transparency Register!

Here’s a friendly word of advice; Consumers so want to love you, but some of you make it so difficult for them to do so!

Whilst some of you offer a helping hand, there are Consumers whose faith in you is dashed when they realise that you cannot or will not help them.

To understand your mentality I suppose some of you believe in a libertarian politic, but your version of libertarianism differs greatly from my own. Whereas I believe in a responsible individual social libertarianism, yours I suspect is rooted in the concept of the now infamous Powell Memorandum; what you subscribe to is in effect a commercial libertarianism whereby you believe in the operation of industry unfettered by rules and without the distraction of Consumer Complaints & Campaigners?

Through your vast experience and lobbying funds, you manage to win time with policy makers that many Consumers do not have.

Even the so-called Brussels Consumer Establishment is either apparently unmotivated, powerless or seduced by your activity, which leaves very little opportunity for the Consumer voice to be heard – that is why we exist!

Whether you like it or not, HolidayTravelWatch is part of the Travel Industry and has fearlessly and independently offered its opinion within the travel debate.

As I reflect on all our encounters both good and bad, I make this promise to you for the next 20 years:

  1. HolidayTravelWatch will fearlessly and independently continue to offer its opinion on all travel related matters;
  2. We shall challenge all aspects which affect the Consumers inability to make informed choices on their travel arrangements;
  3. We shall continue to comment on existing and new legislation that affects the travel consumer;
  4. We shall continue to empower Consumers, and where the few have no choice, we will help them find the opportunity to seek answers through litigation;
  5. We shall continue to offer the hand of friendship with the Travel Industry and agree to agree where we can and agree to disagree when we cannot find agreement, and
  6.  We shall continue to offer respect to an industry, the vast majority of members we consider to be decent and honourable people.

I hope that in the next 20 years, you can learn to relax a little and spend less time with your image and crisis management consultants, and engage in a truly meaningful dialogue with all stakeholders, that will in turn help to develop the laudable goals offered by the Lisbon Treaty on Tourism.

I hope the next 20 years proves that you will operate successful business models that are attractive to the Consumer and that you will, in partnership, learn how to grow better management of the holiday product whilst respecting Consumer Rights!

Kind Regards

Frank Brehany
Consumer Director
HolidayTravelWatch

8 April 2015

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