As destinations become more diverse and accessible, so too does the potential ‘risks’ that face UK holidaymakers! Many holidaymakers are attracted, understandably by the gloss of the holiday brochure and the promise of sun-kissed days away from the drudge of ordinary life! Travel Companies are always crying that holidaymakers need to take responsibility for their own safety! As we have seen during the recent Tunisian and Egyptian crises, when holidaymakers do, these same Travel Companies run for the terms and conditions believing that these will fend off those pesky complaints! In light of recent developments in the Middle-East we take the view that an empowered Consumer is the best guarantor for a sustainable travel product. This guide raises important principles for consideration by any holidaymaker (whether booking, in resort or intending to travel) and should rest by the side of any brochure before any booking is made! You should follow several key principles to help you establish the risks of any given destination:
Before You Travel:
1. Before you book or pay for your holiday, are you satisfied that you understand the nature of your destination?
a. To help you do that, check for political, human rights or weather issues;
b. You can achieve that by either asking your travel provider, by checking news sources (do not limit your search to UK based news channels), checking human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International, or by checking government weather sites such as The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
2. Always buy Travel Insurance at the time of booking – if you believe that you are travelling to a ‘risk destination’, check with them before you purchase the holiday that they will cover you for that destination!
3. If the Insurance Company refuses to cover you – tell your travel provider immediately – there will be a term within your contract that you must have Travel Insurance before you travel!
4. If you find a Travel Insurance Company that will cover you, or you are assisted by the travel provider with Travel Insurance, make sure that you receive a ‘positive’ written statement before you travel that they will cover you!
5. Maintain a check on your destination after you book, right up to the time you travel – use the sources suggested above.
6. Before you travel, register with the UK Foreign Office ‘Locate’ Service – this will give peace of mind to your family;
7. Bring details of your Travel Insurance provider and contact details with you.
Whilst in Resort:
1. If you are in resort and are affected by any such ‘risks’, follow the advices of the Foreign Office, your Tour Operator or Security Services;
2. Make copies of any warnings notices you are given or are presented on notice boards – keep that information with you at all times;
3. Keep a record/diary of everything that is said to you;
4. Maintain a supply of bare essentials; water, snacks, small first aid kit – keep it with you at all times;
5. If you are affected by a weather event:
a. Take photographs and videos to demonstrate the conditions you have endured;
6. DO NOT sign any disclaimer(s) or accept any offer without seeking some independent guidance (you could contact us in that regard);
7. DO NOT assume that because the sun is shining that everything is returning to normal – you could be subject to threats/disease etc;
8. DO NOT assume that your Travel Insurance will continue to cover you whilst you remain in a ‘risk destination’:
a. Contact your Travel Insurer;
b. Advise them of the situation;
c. Follow their advices;
d. Keep a record of what is said to you.
9. Follow News or Weather channels (depending on the ‘risk’) for up to date information;
10. DO NOT expose yourself to any risk!
11. Consider an early evacuation from the destination; follow the lead from your travel provider, insurer or the Foreign Office.
Intending to Travel:
1. If you are booking a last minute holiday, follow the principles in ‘Before You Travel’ above!
2. If you have booked and paid for your holiday and are alerted to ‘risks’ in your intended destination:
a. Contact the Travel Provider immediately!
b. Ascertain the position – record the time and date of the conversation, the name of the person you have spoken with and their comments;
c. Check multiple news sources (particularly non-UK) and governmental weather information services;
d. If your information contradicts the travel providers, challenge them again and make another record of that conversation;
e. Check UK Foreign Office Guidance – do not limit yourself to UK advices, check other country’s advices such as US, Canadian, Australian, Irish, French etc
i. If they contradict the UK Guidance, contact the Consular Service to establish why this is so – make a record of the conversation;
f. Contact your Travel Insurance Provider – share your information with them – are they still willing to provide cover?
i. If they are not willing to provide cover, get an explanation why and make a record of the conversation;
ii. Tell your travel provider immediately – there is usually a clause in the holiday contract requiring you to have travel insurance;
iii. DO NOT accept the position from ANY travel provider that you can travel without insurance!
iv. If you cannot find a Travel Insurer to cover you, and the travel provider finds one for you, ensure that you receive a ‘positive’ written statement from the ‘new’ Travel Insurer that they will provide you with cover to the new destination;
v. If no travel insurance is available, will the travel provider provide you with a written indemnity to cover your risks and lack of insurance?
3. Understand your Consumer Rights – Consider the issues, particularly if you and your family are uncertain about travelling to the ‘risk destination’
a. Continue your research;
b. Has the nature of your intended holiday changed?
c. Is it or will it be substantially different to what you thought you had purchased?
d. Do you think that it is more difficult for the contract to operate?
e. Do you think that by going through with the contract it will cost you more money, potentially or otherwise (lack of travel insurance and its implications)?
f. If you have no insurance cover will the travel provider provide you with a written indemnity to cover your risks and lack of insurance;
g. USE our guide on your rights;
h. CHALLENGE the travel provider with:
i. Your research;
ii. Your views on how the contract is at risk;
iii. Your rights;
iv. Request that they honour those rights;
v. Confirm your views and request in writing (special delivery) and provide copies of supporting documentation
4. If the travel provider is unwilling to agree to your views and requests, you should IMMEDIATELY seek legal assistance (we can provide guidance in that regard, particularly on accessing low cost legal solutions).
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised here, no matter what your destination, then please contact us at HolidayTravelWatch.
For further details on our services, read our Legal Notice.