Travel agent Lee Hunt has turned away £20,000 of business for summer 2021 because he says it’s too soon for customers to book.
The owner of Deben Travel in the Suffolk market town of Woodbridge stopped accepting any new bookings for summer 2021 holidays in late March/early April.
He says he won’t allow any new customers to book for travel before September until the Government announces which countries will be on its green list, allowing quarantine-free travel.
As a result, Lee says his 10-year-old business is ‘not far from the cliff edge’, but he says there is too much uncertainty around summer 2021 holidays to risk taking new bookings.
Instead, he’s taking customers’ details and promising to email them as soon as the Government announces further details of its traffic light system – which Transport Secretary Grant Shapps says might not be for another two weeks.
“We are desperate for this news, money is very low, but I won’t risk the reputation it has taken me 10 years to build for a few summer bookings,” Lee told Travel Gossip.
When customers come in to book holidays from June to August I have an honest conversation with them and tell them they need to hold out until the Government produces the list of green destinations.
“At the moment there is a lot of speculation but no facts. We desperately need people to travel, but I won’t sacrifice our integrity and customer service to tell customers what they want to hear and take their booking when I don’t even know if they’ll be able to travel.
“Even if they can travel, we don’t know what the restrictions will be. Will the pool be open, will they have to wear a mask to lie on the beach, will they be able to play tennis? The tour operators can’t tell us and all the hotel websites say is that they have new health and safety protocols. What does that mean? We need more information.”
Lee says his biggest fear is taking a booking for a destination that ends up on the Government’s amber list, which would require customers to quarantine at home when they return. “Tour operators and airlines might not cancel these holidays so our customers wouldn’t get a refund,” he said. “The best they might be offered is a free amendment.”
Lee says he is only taking bookings from September onwards until there is more information from the Government. As a result, he estimates he has turned away £20,000 of potential bookings for summer 2021.
He took a similar stance last year, turning away summer 2020 business due to uncertainty. “I am more than confident that these customers will come back and book, and they will tell others how honest we have been with them,” said Lee.
“I would love to know what other agents are telling their customers.”