Make sure that your sports holiday is financially protected
UK and European law requires international travel businesses to financially protect their package holidays in the countries in which they are established. It doesn’t matter where the travel company is based. To sell within the EU even American or Australian travel companies have to provide financial protection.
Unfortunately, in the specialist holiday sector in particular, many Tour Operators do not adhere to the Law, and therefore do not provide adequate financial protection.
Sports Tours International abide by the Package Travel Regulations, and we are members of the governing bodies that regulate travel in the UK, namely ATOL, ABTA and IATA. Because of this, we can sell protected holidays to consumers across Europe and the rest of the world. The 2018 Package Travel Regulations implement the 2015 European Package Travel Directive (PTD 2015), and provide important protection for consumers to cover the unique characteristics of package holidays. UK and European law requires travel businesses to financially protect their package holidays in the countries in which they are established.
What is a travel package?
You are booking a package holiday when you buy a combination of two or more different types of travel services for the same trip or holiday. These services can include transport, accommodation, car hire, or under specific conditions any other tourist service like the entry into an event for example.
Under European legislation, travel businesses, selling package holidays within the EU, must provide financial protection to consumers regardless of where they are registered. So, if you book a trip to go cycling in France with an American or Australian Tour Operator for example, they must be able to show you how they provide financial protection to you.
The ATOL scheme for packages with flights included
Travel businesses based in the UK, who sell travel packages with flights included, provide their protection under the ATOL scheme, while those based in other European Member States provide their own financial protection schemes. If there is no flight included with your package, you will be protected if the company you book with has made arrangements to ensure that your money is protected. Travel businesses established in other countries, within European Economic Area (EEA), are not required by law to hold an ATOL when they sell flight-inclusive holidays in the UK but, under European legislation, travel businesses selling package holidays within the EU must provide financial protection to consumers. In these circumstances, the consumer must go to the protection authority of the country in which the business is based for that protection. The protection provided in these countries should be every bit as comprehensive as ATOL protection, but, bear in mind that there may be some differences to ATOL. For example the provision of repatriation flights. It could be the case, if you were affected, that you may have to repay for new flights and claim them back at a later date. If your holiday is not ATOL protected, the CAA will not be able to assist you and you will need to deal with the protection authority of that European country. Travel businesses based outside of the EEA, for example those based in the USA, are required to hold an ATOL in order to sell flight inclusive holidays to the UK.
Unfortunately, especially in the active holiday industry, there are many Tour Operators who do not adhere to the law. Added to this is the problem that enforcement of the Package Travel Regulations, in the UK, is non-existent.
What happens when a flight is not included and there is no ATOL?
Package organisers must obtain security that covers the reasonably foreseeable costs of, and delivers effective and prompt return of, all payments made by the traveller for services not performed. They must also make provisions for the travellers’ effective and prompt repatriation in the event of the organiser’s insolvency. There are three insolvency protection options which 2018 Package Travel Regulations permit organisers to use for non-Flight Packages.
Bonding – A sum of money is set aside and the approved body monitors trader activity and manages the bond calling process to ensure the travellers are refunded through the following organisations: ABTA – The Travel Association, Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust (ABTOT) or Bonded Coach Holidays (BCH) – you can look for these organisation’s logos on the Tour operator’s website
Insurance – The tour organiser can take out one or more insurance policies which recognises the travellers as the insured persons and therefore pays direct to the travellers in the event of insolvency
Trust Account – This option requires all money paid by the traveller to be held by an independent trustee until the contract has been performed
Before you make your booking, you should make the below checks to ensure that you are booking with a reputable company:
Where is your booking protected? It can be unclear in what country the company you book with is officially registered. By law travel businesses are required to tell you which country will be responsible for financially protecting your booking so ask them!
How is your booking protected? Some travel businesses’ websites include general protection statements but do not provide any specific information on how the arrangements work in practice. If financial protection is provided by the protection authority in another country, we strongly advises that:
You look for evidence that protection will be provided to consumers from your country
You check the level of protection in place to ensure it will refund all affected consumers’ claim(s) in full; and
Establish what the practical steps are for submitting a claim if required
Don’t just depend on an ABTA, or the Civil Aviation Authority’s ATOL stamp, on a website, as cowboys typically put these on fake websites. Go to ‘Member Search’ at abta.com and ‘Check an ATOL’ on the Civil Aviation Authority website (caa.co.uk) to verify your supplier is listed. ATOL membership is very powerful, because it ensures you don’t lose out in case your tour agency collapses before or during your holiday.
We also advise you to take out travel insurance coverage well ahead of your holiday so you’ll be able to claim for a refund if something like ill health strikes and you are obliged to cancel. You should always ensure that you have appropriate and sufficient travel insurance and healthcare cover before you go abroad. You can find information about Sports Tours own bespoke insurance policy, that is specifically designed for use on our tours, here;
In the event of a no deal Brexit then, in theory, the cover provided by the EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) would no longer be valid. *NOTE* the EHIC scheme also covers Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
If you have a pre-existing medical condition, it is particularly important to ensure you have the right medical cover on your insurance, as the EHIC covers these, while many travel insurance policies do not.