In this section, several leading industry figures talk about what the future holds in 2018 and beyond, looking at changes in innovation, legislation, luxury and family cruise, the rise of river, meeting the needs of millennials and the latest destination hotspots. Here, Mark Tanzer, the chief executive of Abta, looks at the new legislation that will affect the industry in 2018
Next year will see a range of new legislation, most of it originating from the European Union, that will have a significant impact on travel agent and tour operator businesses. Travel companies must make sure that they are properly prepared and have incorporated these new requirements into their business practices.
The Payment Services Directive 2 comes into effect on January 13 and from this date companies will no longer be able to pass on payment card charges to their retail customers (corporate credit cards are not affected). Travel companies will be particularly badly hit, as high value transactions attract high charges as they are based on a percentage of the transaction cost rather than a fixed fee. Companies that set the costs of their products, such as tour operators, may simply raise their prices across the board, not good for consumers who to date have had the choice of not using a card that attracted fees, but certainly understandable from a business perspective.
However, travel agents do not generally have this option and, with card transaction fees often set at a high level, this change could make significant inroads into their profit margins. Abta has been making the point strongly to the government that this could have a detrimental impact on SME agent businesses and this matter needs to be addressed urgently. In the meantime, companies will need to look at other ways to minimise the financial impact.
In May 2018 another substantial piece of European legislation comes into force, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This will require companies to have clearer and more robust processes in place when handling the personal data of customers, staff or other people who may come into contact with a business. GDPR is particularly important for travel companies due to the amount of personal data they hold about their customers – names and addresses, passport details, dietary preferences, medical conditions and reports, complaints, photos and videos, financial and payment information. All of this is lucrative information for identify theft and other forms of criminal activity. Once more, Abta has detailed guidance on abta.com.
Finally, the revised Package Travel Directive, which has been under discussion and subject to consultations for quite some time, will come into effect from July 1, 2018. Many agents could now find themselves classed as package organisers due to the wider definition of package holidays, with all the subsequent obligations that this will entail. If you have not already, you should be urgently reviewing your selling models to understand how the new regulations will affect them.
One of the new requirements is that organisers must let their customers know whether the trip is generally suitable for persons with reduced mobility. Abta has requested guidance on certain aspects of the requirements, but it is essential that organisers have clear lines communication with their suppliers so they can support their customers’ needs. Agents also have a role to play when identifying the needs of customers who may have some form of disability and I recommend the use of our check list, which will help you identify disabled customers’ needs in a structured and sensitive fashion.