The collapse of LowCostHolidays sent shockwaves through the travel industry last month, leaving thousands of holidaymakers overseas with unexpected bills to pay and affecting more than 100,000 travellers.
[Image credit: Facebook/LowCostHolidays]
Prior to this and after years of being based in the UK, the firm moved to Spain and lost its ATOL membership, which protected customers’ money in the event that the company went bust. As a result, many consumers were forced to pay for their accommodation if they were already abroad, while those yet to fly had to scramble to rebook hotels and even flights in some cases.
It was a horrible situation for British people who have no doubt saved large amounts of cash for a relaxing break, only to have it harshly taken away from them. What’s even worse is that many travellers were not aware that LowCostHolidays no longer had ATOL protection, because its website continued to be placed high on Google’s rankings.
Here are four ways customers can make the right choice when booking a holiday:
1. Check for ATOL protection
This one goes without saying, but it is vital to ensuring a safe package holiday. ATOL protection means that your money can be refunded if any of the companies involved in your booking go bust.
In the current economic climate, it is imperative that your money is safeguarded or the holiday of your dreams could turn into a nightmare. However, ATOL is mainly available on package deals, meaning separate flight and accommodation bookings are not covered. In these circumstances, it is advisable to use a credit card and sign up for a travel insurance policy that includes end supplier failure cover.
2. Read reviews
The internet and social media have made it far easier for customers to learn about the background of companies. Websites such as TripAdvisor, TrustPilot and Holiday Watchdog allow travellers to talk about their experiences and seek advice on how to plan their trip.
Many of these sites show aggregated scores for airlines and accommodation. It’s likely that negative comments will pop up every now and again, so average scores give consumers a clearer picture that allows them to make well-informed decisions.
3. Explore the website
Many holidaymakers want to spend money with companies that are truly passionate about travel, rather than those that simply want to make as much cash as possible.
The best companies showcase their knowledge of the industry through engaging online content. You should expect detailed destination guides, useful tips and inspirational media that leave a strong impression.
On the other hand, if all the website can offer is low-resolution images and basic descriptions, it’s clear that they are not an authority in the sector. If you’re searching for a package holiday, you should look to deal with businesses that have an exhaustive knowledge of their hotels and destinations. If you leave a site and do not feel more tempted to book your trip, it’s clear the agency has the wrong marketing strategy.
4. Check the social media accounts
Social media is an exceptional tool for looking at the quality of customer service provided by companies. When travellers have complaints, they’re going to turn to Twitter and Facebook to voice them, rather than ringing up. It often results in quicker responses because businesses do not want to suffer any reputational damage.
As a potential customer, it’s worth looking on these platforms to see how agents have handled complaints or questions. If replies have been slow or non-existent, it does not bode well.
Alternatively, you may find that the business is quick to answer questions and has received many compliments. The only way to find out is to research and, while it may seem like a bit of work, it’ll be worth it when you have found the perfect package supplier!