Internet holiday complaints vanishing

TRAVELCARE, the UK&#039s largest independent travel agent, has called on web-based travel suppliers to ?come clean&#039 on customer satisfaction after warning that holiday complaints are disappearing into an...

TRAVELCARE, the UK&#039s largest independent travel agent, has called on web-based travel suppliers to ?come clean&#039 on customer satisfaction after warning that holiday complaints are disappearing into an internet "black hole".

The call by Travelcare, part of the Co-operative Group, follows the publication today (20 May) of the agent&#039s latest Holiday Report, the UK&#039s only independent study of just how good holiday companies are at satisfying their customers.

Travelcare&#039s general manager, Amanda Williams, commented: "Because of the growth in independent travel, particularly arrangements made on the Internet, holidaymakers now have literally thousands of companies to choose from, both UK-based and foreign.

"As a result no-one in this country has the foggiest idea of just how well, in general terms, consumers are being served in the holiday sector. This simply can&#039t be right – people expect a lot from their holidays and they deserve these facts to help them make an informed choice."

And the call has been backed by the Institute of Trading Standards, which has warned consumers that "they could be on their own" when they have a complaint about a holiday supplier based abroad.

The Holiday Report, covering the Summer 2003 holiday season, focuses on the 30 package holiday suppliers most popular with Travelcare customers. It shows:

Accommodation continued to cause more complaints than any other holiday issue, with a seven per cent rise in numbers compared to the previous year.
The majority of the UK&#039s big tour operators are willing to reveal their complaints levels ? and generally speaking, they&#039re doing a good job. Complaints levels dropped for 24 out of the 30 operators featured in the report.
Argo, Crystal, Kuoni and Inghams all withheld their official complaints figures.
Complaints against Travelcare itself were slightly up but still less than one per cent of all passengers booked.

Ironically, the report&#039s publication coincides with a new BBC consumer series, Brassed Off, which list holidays among the top ten most frustrating purchases.

Travelcare is calling on all travel companies including airlines, tour operators, web-based holiday suppliers, hotels and car hire companies to be more upfront with the public in terms of their complaints records.

"The industry has consistently shot itself in the foot on this issue," added Amanda Williams. "Our independent study shows clearly that tour operators at least are doing an excellent job in meeting customer needs ? yet by not being more open and assertive on the issue, the industry as a whole is only adding to the impression being created, particularly in the media, that service is poor.

"The fact is that with the growth of independent travel and the thousands of travel and holiday suppliers offering their services on the internet, it will be even more difficult for holidaymakers to judge service standards ? and get complaints resolved.

"Now is the time for all holiday companies who are proud of their service record ? and even those who aren&#039t but who are working on it ? to stand up, be counted and be upfront about the complaints they receive."

Bruce Treloar, Principal Officer, Travel for the Institute of Trading Standards, agrees.
"When people choose a holiday company, be it a tour operator, airline or accommodation provider, they put a lot of trust in them to deliver," he commented. "Being aware of a company&#039s service record should play an important part in helping consumers to make the right choice."

This, the fifth edition of Travelcare&#039s Holiday Report, will be the last in its present form. For 2005, the five leading Co-op travel businesses which make up the Co-operative Travel Trading Group, including Travelcare, will be pooling complaints information, based on a combined passenger database of over three million passengers per annum, to give an even more detailed picture of the holiday service provided in the UK.

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