As the travel industry gears up towards restart, tour operators may be thinking of revising their terms and conditions ahead of hosting clients once again.
It’s an ideal time to do this exercise. Travelers who are ready to go on trips within the next few months will be looking for T&C’s that provide them with peace of mind when booking. Considering that recent times have seen a shift in the way of doing things, your existing policies may not meet current expectations. If that’s the case, travelers may then look elsewhere for their reservation.
It’s not only a matter of meeting your clients’ expectations though – you need to ensure that your company is protected during these unpredictable times. Nobody wants to have to deal with credit card disputes or chargebacks that negatively impact income and client relationships.
After the wave of trip cancellations that began early February due to lockdown, you will know from experience that it’s best to be prepared.
What Can Tour Operators Focus On For Terms and Conditions?
First up, note that the information in this article is intended as general guidance only and should not replace professional legal advice. Consult your professional legal team for expert counsel when making any changes to your company’s terms and conditions.
Ready to review your policies?
Most if not all tour operators, travel companies, and tourism providers were flooded with requests to cancel, reschedule, or make trip changes when COVID-19 initially hit and countries went into lockdown. So, you might know from experience if, or where, your current T&C’s fell short.
Updating your T&C documents can help you to actively safeguard your business and income. You can welcome guest bookings and host trips knowing that you are protected and clients are aware of the conditions should something unexpected occur.
Considerations for tour operators to address in their policies could include:
- how cancellations will be dealt with
- how rescheduling will be dealt with
- refunds, fees, and payment forfeitures
- voucher validity
- payment schedule timelines
- hygiene, safety, and social distancing requirements
Whatever you do, keep the document as simple and straightforward as possible.
Complicated conditions can make it difficult or unclear for travelers to understand what their potential liabilities will be. In terms of landing a booking, this can be a deterrent.
Banks and financial institutions also look for a clear set of terms when dealing with disputes. Long-winded documents that aren’t explicit about the terms can work against you and result in the process being taken further for investigation.
Updating T&C’s – Insights To Help
1. Allow For More Flexibility In Booking Policies
While COVID is around, things can change from day to day. Because of this, travelers are understandably wary when it comes to paying for trips too far in advance. It’s difficult to know in a day or a few months whether they will be able to go on the tour.
You can remedy this uncertainty by giving them greater flexibility on your booking policies. Updating your terms and conditions to allow clients to change their reservation within reason when it’s due to specific uncontrollable circumstances can give them peace of mind.
You could allow them to:
- reschedule the group for a future date
- book an alternate tour as a replacement
- claim a credit to put towards a future booking
- make final payments closer to the date of departure
- keep a lifetime deposit on the books for future use
Doing this doesn’t have to cost your travel business anything. Be very clear about the fees, timelines, and conditions attached to any requested changes. Take the time to ensure that these work for you equally as well as they do for your clients.
2. Be Clear About Cancellations
Cancellations are less than ideal, and sometimes, no matter how hard you try, clients just aren’t willing to reschedule.
As much as this adds to the uncertainty of the situation, you can be better prepared for these instances by making sure that your cancellation and refund terms are very clear. Travelers are generally aware that there will be policies around this, it’s simply a case of making these known and clear going into the booking.
State whether the client will be charged a fee for canceling, and even set a cut off date for giving cancellation notice.
Importantly, all communication and cancellation requests should take place in writing.
3. Have A COVID Trip Safety Policy In Place
In our recent webinar on how to instill confidence and ready your team to run group tours, speaker Jon Peahl, Founder of Sansee Systems, mentioned that travel businesses need to have a readiness plan on display.
Among other things, this plan needs to outline the measures you will take to ensure guests’ safety when they’re on the trip. For example, let them that you now offer contactless payments and mobile check-ins. Or highlight the interactions guests will have in their entirety with people other than your team, and so on.
These guidelines can form part of your terms and conditions to do two beneficial things.
Firstly, it will boost travelers’ confidence in your business if they know you are being proactive and have an accurate idea of what to expect.
Secondly, it will also help to set the expectations for when they are on the trip. For example, everyone will know in advance that they are required to wear face masks, sanitize their hands, and listen to instructions from the tour guide.
If you review your terms and policies to adequately protect your business and clients in these times, you will be able to navigate future trips with confidence and foresight.
Ensure that clients have read the updated policies before booking so that there aren’t any unexpected surprises later down the line. You should also post the documents on your website, and send them out via email upon receipt of their deposit so that the information is readily available if need be.