Enough bytes have been expended on the aftershock of the momentous vote last week, without me feeling the need to add my own, limited understanding of what is clearly an unchartered political situation. I think Rachel Johnson put it very well: “everyone keeps saying “we are where we are” but nobody seems to have the slightest clue where that is”.
That said, many of our clients have been asking what it means for us as a business and what the effects might be on our small corner of the travel industry. I thought I’d briefly outline my thoughts and the company position in that respect.
In so far as our company is concerned, like many small, but fast growing consumer businesses, we’d definitely prefer a stable outlook for the economy and clearly there are choppy waters ahead in the short term at least. However, having founded the company in Sri Lanka in 2004 just days before the Asian Tsunami, and grown the company through the 2008 financial crisis, the subsequent recession, plus countless other political and weather related crisis’ we would expect things to settle down over the next month or two. As a business we’re well equipped for most situations and we were already looking forward to catching up on planned research and development work during the traditionally quieter summer months.
We’ve taken a good number of bookings over the past few days (similar numbers to what we’d expect at this time of year) and we have a sold out travel event later this evening which we are co-hosting with South America specialists Last Frontiers.
In short, I cannot thank you all enough for your ongoing support and care. We really are honoured to have such brilliant and supportive clients: it takes more than this to deter you from travelling!
Most destinations in Asia price in US dollars and there is some talk in the travel industry of companies imposing surcharges on their clients. I’d like to reassure our clients that we took the conservative view in the run up to the referendum and purchased forward enough US Dollar to cover all our current bookings and a little more besides. We might have to raise prices in the future, depending on the exchange rate movements from now, but we’ll look to push our suppliers and margins first. We’ll still offer unbeatable value and South-East Asia will remain the best value region for holidays on earth. Bar none. The third issue is that a small but significant portion of our business comes from the Eurozone and it remains to be seen what will happen to that. We expect our US business to be unaffected.
We believe that the great British public (god bless them!) will continue to want to travel to Asia and we cannot see that changing any time soon. There is just so much to see and discover there and so many people want to do it in a more interesting way than what is offered by traditional ‘off the shelf’ holiday companies. People will continue to travel and no doubt our clients will appreciate the value we offer in our signature and exclusive tours as well as the care and attention put in up front to ensure their hard earned money is well spent. So all in all, as a business, whilst we’d rather it hadn’t happened, we feel very well equipped to deal with any short-term fallout and feel reasonably confident there won’t be too much of a long term negative impact.
In terms of the wider impact on the travel industry, people more qualified than I will no doubt lay out their opinions. However, it is worth noting that we as a tour operator are bound by EU regulations in the form of the 1992 Package Travel Regulations. These regulations provide tight and important protections for the consumer in a market, which prior to this act was rife with irregularity and financial scams. These regulations largely put an end to that, meaning consumers can travel today with complete confidence if they use a company which fully complies with the act. I believe that, in common with most EU regulations, they are just too complex and too entwined with the modus operandi of the UK industry as a whole to be unravelled in a two year exit period, and so, just like much of the rest of the 80,000 pages of EU regulations, the act will be accepted wholesale and re-written as and when the UK government finds the time and inclination. Watch this space for more exciting updates on that over the next 20 years!
In all seriousness though, the act does provide an excellent framework for consumer protection and in times of economic uncertainty it is even more important to consider the issue of financial protection. It’s not just that your money is secure, though that is important, but also that as the tour operator, we are legally obliged to take responsibility for each aspect of your holiday and ensure it all works together. That is not something you even remotely get if you book it all with online travel agents, airline websites or local in-country operators. We actually go a step further than we legally have to, in offering 100% financial protection for every single holiday or part of holiday we arrange for any of our clients. We believe that peace of mind is a fundamental part of enjoying your holiday and our membership of ABTA, AITO and ATOL ensures that. It’s not just us that offers this of course: any of our partners in AITO (Association of Independent Tour Operators) do the same and many more reputable travel operators in what is a major success industry for the UK.
That’s me done. Here’s to the UK finding a way forward in which we can all prosper and find as much peace and happiness as humanly possible.