The international travel industry slowed to a virtual standstill over the past two years, with traveller numbers dropping to historic lows during the peaks of the pandemic.
However, with many countries now operating minimal Covid restrictions or indeed none at all, tour operators have been reporting a huge revival in bookings that are approaching pre-pandemic levels.
Traditionally, January and February were the busiest times for booking summer holidays but, given the continuing Covid uncertainties earlier this year, it seems as though many may have delayed booking their holiday until now.
The summer holiday season is almost upon us and for many this will be their first trip abroad since 2019. Expectations will be understandably high - many families have saved up and are now splashing out on an overseas holiday as a well-earned break after recent hardships. Against this background, the benefits of opting for a traditional regulated package holiday as opposed to a self-organised trip cannot be overstated.
The Package Travel Regulations (2018) provide a whole raft of protections for travellers, the full extent of which are outside the scope of this article. However, simply listing a few should immediately make the advantages of a package holiday apparent.
Tour operator’s liability
The greatest advantage of a package holiday is that the tour operator is responsible for each and every aspect. The tour operator is the single point of contact for all the arrangements: flights, hotel, transfers, pre-booked excursions etc. It also means that if anything goes wrong with any part of the holiday, you can pursue your case against the tour operator in your home court and under local law.
This is far preferable to having to pursue a claim against a supplier abroad under foreign law.
Tour operator’s assistance
In addition, should you get into any difficulty whilst on your package holiday, The Package Travel Regulations also place the tour operator under a duty to provide you with: “appropriate assistance without undue delay …in particular by providing appropriate information on health services, local authorities and consular assistance…; and "assisting [you] to make distance communications and helping [you] to find alternative travel arrangements.”
This duty to provide you with assistance applies for the whole duration of the trip and even if the difficulty you find yourself in is nothing to do with any aspect of the holiday the tour operator has supplied.
The tour operator is obliged to provide you with an emergency number or details of a contact point where you can get in touch with them.
Tour operator’s financial security
If the tour operator becomes insolvent, any deposit you have paid to them will be refunded. If the tour operator becomes insolvent after the start of the package holiday, and if transport is included in the package holiday, your repatriation back home is guaranteed.
In addition, if before the start of your holiday, the tour operator cancels it, you will be entitled to a refund and compensation where appropriate. The recent chaos faced by travellers setting off for the spring half-term break and the Platinum Jubilee weekend shows just how important this benefit is.
Even though the transition period for the UK’s departure from the EU ended at 11pm on 31 December 2020, the practical effects of Brexit on travel to EU destinations are only becoming apparent now that we are coming out of the Covid pandemic and international travel is back on the cards. Membership of the EU gave British residents the automatic right, in certain circumstances, to pursue their legal cases arising out of accidents in the EU, in their UK home court. That right disappeared when we left the EU. It is therefore much safer now to have as much of your holiday as possible provided to you by the UK tour operator so that you can pursue them here should something go wrong.
Package travel all the way
It must be said that the types of holidays that are covered by the Package Travel Regulations vary widely and go far beyond the traditional image of a package holiday involving chartered flights and high-rise hotels.
In fact, it is difficult to envisage a holiday that could not be supplied to you as a regulated package. For a summer holiday, these range from a budget self-catering apartment to a luxury beachfront five-star hotel or villa.
Especially important for a once-in-a-lifetime trip, package offers vary from a safari, a Christmas trip to Lapland and everything else imaginable in between.
Nowadays, besides the big-name high-street tour operators we all know, there is also a huge range of smaller niche operators who cater to every taste, whim and budget. Wherever there is a choice, and there usually is, a package is your safest bet.
Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in supporting people following an accident or injury abroad at our dedicated international serious injury section.