ASTA beef with tour operators

ASTA is calling on tour operators to do right by travel
advisors regarding commission payments and policy changes during the coronavirus crisis.

While cancellations are “painful enough,” ASTA said the retroactive
changing of refund, cancellation and commission policies are “far more

ASTA president and CEO Zane Kerby addressed the issue
on a media call on Thursday.

“There has been a growing chorus of our members who have
noticed that some tour operators are not acting responsibly or acting with a
very short-term mindset,” Kerby said. “We understand the cash crunch that
everyone is under, but by holding onto customer deposits and only offering
future credits, in some instances they are going against policies that they
have adhered to in their own books, and in other cases they could be running
afoul of state or federal law.”

He said, “We’re calling on the tour operator community to
certainly act responsibly in these times.”

ASTA said that when a supplier doesn’t honor its cancellation, rebooking
and refund policies, they run afoul of consumer-protection laws and make travel
advisors vulnerable to legal action from their customers.

“This practice is, in a word, unacceptable,” ASTA said.

On the flip side, some tour operators have amended policies to
be more consumer-friendly while protecting travel advisor commissions, which
ASTA applauded.

ASTA called on tour operators to do the following. The list was
developed in conjunction with member agencies, franchisors and consortia:

• Ensure that all travel components are fully refundable and
not merely credited for future travel.

• Honor the original agency commissions on all bookings if
the travel is rebooked. If the travel is refunded, consider a partial
commission payment.

• Honor agency commissions at time of deposit and/or at time
of final payment.

• Forgo the practice of assessing cancellation fees on
rebooked or refunded itineraries and ensure that travel credits are at least
equal to the price the customer paid.

• Set no time limit on any credit issued for canceled
bookings when taken in lieu of a refund. At the very least, make the credit
good for a minimum of two years from the original departure date. 

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