Plans to restart foreign travel for millions of people could be doomed to fail if the government does not effectively consult consumers according to Which?.
The consumer rights body said travellers must be reassured that trips abroad will be safe, affordable and their refund rights will be upheld.
The government’s global travel taskforce is due to outline how it will restart international travel, currently set to reopen no earlier than May 17th, when it publishes its report in early April.
However, Which? is concerned that limited opportunities for travellers to engage with the taskforce could mean that their concerns will not be addressed ahead of international travel reopening.
The taskforce’s page on the government’s website says it is consulting with a range of groups, including the transport industry, international partners, the tourism sector, the private testing sector and academia and policy institutes.
Engagement with consumers seems to be largely limited to an email address that travellers can send their concerns about travel reopening to, and even this is not listed clearly on the taskforce web page for passengers to find.
Today, Which? is publishing its list of consumer priorities for travel, which the taskforce must take on board if its plans to restart international travel are to be successful.
They focus on vital measures to build passenger confidence around the safety of travel, accessibility and affordability of Covid tests and vaccine passports and assurances that holidaymakers will not be left out of pocket by coronavirus travel disruption.
Which? is also urging people to share their experiences with the taskforce of how the pandemic has affected their travel plans over the past year and their concerns ahead of travel reopening via email or social media in the two weeks left before the body is due to report.
Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said: “Many of us are looking forward to the opportunity to step on a plane and travel to family and friends or take a holiday again in the near future, but the past year has taught us that there are a number of risks involved with international travel that need to be removed or reduced before we will be comfortable doing so.
“Confidence in overseas travel has plummeted as a result of the pandemic, and government interventions for both the industry and passengers who have been let down by their operator or airline have been woefully insufficient.
“The taskforce has a real opportunity to give passengers the confidence to travel again, but it must take their concerns into consideration, or else it risks another disastrous summer for passengers and industry alike.”
For more than a year now, the consumer champion has been hearing from people who have been let down by their travel provider after the pandemic grounded most international travel, which saw confidence in the industry plunge to a record low.
According to the Competition & Markets Authority, cancellation and refund complaints have accounted for the overwhelming majority of complaints to the regulator since April, with around 47,000 cancellation complaints about holiday companies since March last year, and more than 10,000 cancellation complaints about airlines.