“Consumer protection is only going to go one way in Brussels – there’s going to be more of it,” ABTA Chairman John McEwan warned delegates at the Travel Centres conference, which took place this weekend at the Killashee House Hotel & Villa Spa near Naas, Co Kildare.
He also warned those attending that travel agents who dynamically package could, under the terms of the forthcoming new EU Package Travel Directive, be given “an extra step of liability” and be made responsible for fulfillment of the package, even though they would retain the right to “go after” other principals involved. “A level playing field, with airlines included, will be needed,” he stressed. In the UK, a Civil Aviation Bill currently going through parliament would enable airlines to be brought under consumer protection requirements within 18 months, he added.
ABTA, The Travel Association, which represents some 1,300 member companies with 5,000-plus locations in the UK, including more than 90% of travel agents as well as tour operators, is getting legal advice on the implications of dynamic packaging as regards VAT if travel agents are deemed to be principals under the new EU Directive, the terms of which may be announced in February/March next year.
Entrepreneur John McGuire, having outlined the ups and downs of his business career, summarised his conclusions in eight points:
- A good product or service and a unique selling point spread by word of mouth are key elements to success.
- Networking is important for cost-effective marketing.
- A management accountant is essential.
- When outgoings are more than income, protect your home and housekeeping, then pay other debts as best you can.
- All big lessons come from failures, so don’t be afraid of failure.
- If something isn’t working, you need to change it.
- Never underestimate what people will pay for no hassle.
- You need to set yourself targets – and to hit them!
Wedding planner Rosemarie Meleady outlined how travel agents can develop a niche market in destination weddings, after which members suggested that Rosie should consider becoming a consultant supplier to the Travel Centres consortium.