INSTRUCTIONS FOR USE (DEADLINE: 30th APRIL 2019)
All you need to do is replace the short description of SWTA below with a description of your business and then either write your own submission or write that you agree with the SWTA submission which you can cut and paste from below. Any questions, just write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Who is the South West Tourism Alliance?
The SW Tourism Alliance is the largest membership organisation in SW England representing tourism. Established in 2011, post the closure of the Regional Tourist Boards it secured the continuing provision of data, tourism specific training, tourism support, and regional awards to businesses in the SW. It is run by a volunteer board and now lobbies extensively for tourism in the region.
We are opposed to any change in the terms under which guests can cancel their booking. Ours is a sector made up of small businesses who offer outstanding value for money to their guests. We believe that a change to effectively allow a ‘cooling off’ period of 14 days after a booking was placed, and allow the guest to cancel without any penalty at all, will actually encourage cancellations, particularly on late bookings when guests are looking for deals. This will encourage the kind of behaviour that blights restaurants, when guests make multiple bookings, and then decide at the last minute to take up a favoured option, leaving all the other businesses out of pocket. The OTA’s also encourage this kind of behaviour, and in 2017 Booking.Com had to be taken to task by the Advertising Standards Authority for offering blanket no penalty cancellations.
Our Members charge a deposit to secure the booking and the balance is due just prior to stay. The OTA’s take full payment at the time of booking, regardless of how far ahead the booking is made. Many OTA’s retain their booking fee in the event a booking is cancelled, so suffer no financial penalty from cancelled bookings.
The key points being.
When we take a booking, we regard that as a contract, and would not cancel the guests booking unless there was a serious reason for doing so, flood, fire etc. It is extremely rare.
Once those dates are booked, they are off the calendar, owners will not take another booking for that period for that particular unit, therefore maintaining our side of the contract.
The lead times on booking family holidays, the core of our business in the South West are still several months on average. For late cancellations it may be impossible to rebook.
Late bookings are generally sold at a reducing prices, the nearer you get to the available date. If late bookings had a 14 day ‘cooling off’ period, the possibility of even more cancellations would increase, as guests would look to see what other, last minute, distressed options were available, and cancel the first option to take a cheaper one. Thus, leaving the original booking unable to be re-let. This would gravely penalise the property owners’ income, while the OTAs income stream would be unaffected (or even benefitted), as some booking fees are not reimbursable on cancellation.
The guest can take out travel insurance, which would cover them if they have a genuine reason for cancellation, serious illness etc, and then neither the guest or hospitality owner is out of pocket.
For small self-catering businesses, bed and breakfasts and hotels in coastal and rural locations, reselling short breaks is completely different from large city hotels, who are selling rooms every day. There are almost zero same day enquiries for the former.
The number of actual cancellations is currently quite small, but last-minute cancellations to a small business, who have kept their side of the contract, would be extremely damaging financially if guests were able to change their mind at any time.
In conclusion, this is different from normal distance selling. Guests are booking to secure accommodation a long way in advance in order to secure what they want. The owner is then making that property unavailable to everyone else. If the guest is thinking that they may have to cancel they can take out travel insurance.
We would ask BEIS not to introduce such a measure - which is not a pressure point from our guests - and to leave the ‘rights to cancellations’ as they are now.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Thanks for the opportunity to present a submission.
Alistair Handyside MBE
The South West Tourism Alliance
The closing date for submissions is 1 May 2019 and can be sent to:
Alternatively, you can complete the online survey
We will be lobbying hard against this, so please support us by taking ten minutes to write in. This is a key financial aspect of our business, and this threatened change is most unwelcome.
Many thanks Alistair
The South West tourism Alliance