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Recently, the industry has been rocked by several tour operators going out of business. Thomas Cook and Cox & Kings are legendary brands that have been sending guests overseas for decades (actually, centuries). Having both go under in such a short time — and accompanied by so many high-profile stories of stranded travelers — casts a shadow across the industry.
Fortunately, travel advisors stepped up and helped many salvage their trips, showing the value of having an advocate by your side. And for those clients who are concerned, it’s important to let them know that these closures are the exception in an industry that’s otherwise booming, as American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) pointed out in a press release.
“The Thomas Cook situation is not indicative of the declining health of the overall travel advisor industry,” according to the release. “Far from it. According to our independent recent research study, travel advisors report strong business demand and growth for 2020.”
Beyond dealing with skeptical customers, advisors also need to be checking with their industry contacts to make sure they are working with companies who are on solid financial footing. Consortia reps, fellow advisors, ASTA and the U.S. Tour Operators Association (USTOA) are all good sources for this information.
Of course, advisors should keep up to date on stories in the trade media, as well.
It’s also important for advisors to be aware of any possible recourse if something does happen. For instance, USTOA’s $1 Million Travelers Assistance Program provides a contingency in case one of its members shuts its doors. Purchases of Cox & Kings products made prior to Oct. 15 may be protected under the USTOA program. Also, many insurance policies cover supplier bankruptcies — although the details get complicated, so it’s best to contact your provider.
Ultimately, one would hope that suppliers are ethical and considerate even when faced with insolvency. Sadly, there’s no guarantee that will happen, so advisors need to plan ahead in order to be ready to protect themselves and their clients.