Which? – less than fair to travel

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

Beachcomber wwas one tour operator that hit back at Which?’s Holiday Checker methodology

The normally well-respected consumer title, Which? has suddenly raised the ire of travel companies with what is claimed to be some ill-informed conclusions about some travel companies.

An online group of travel agents and travel companies, Travel Gossip, was livid

The cause?

A guide to assist travellers called the Which? Holiday Checker which the thoughtful people at Which? had compiled to compare the flexible booking and cancellation policies of more than 70 holiday companies.

Unfortunately, those usually competent Which? staffers had blundered in a couple iof instances.

The first blunder was in deciding that non-responders to Which?’s enquiries were to be rated as red meaning that they lacked transparency and by being red it was recommended that people should not book with them.

That is not normally the way non-responders are treated either by Which? or any reputable market research company. To do so is highly misleading as Which? found out when the Association of Independent Your Operators (AITO) pointed out that some companies weren’t even trading at the moment because the holiday destinations they served were effectively closed to travel! (Unavailable on their website but quoted via the Travel Gossip story mentioned earlier)

The second seems to be not finding why companies hadn’t replied because if it had the organisation wouldn’t find it was in the mess that it was in now. Some AITO members claimed that they haven’t had a chance to respond to Which?‘s request.

One company, Beachcomber Tours (press release refered to not loaded on to their website) issued one of the strongest press releases I have ever seen saying, “…all cancelled trips have been refunded as and when countries have been added to the red list, while most of our destinations have remained closed so we have not been organising travel.”  The company went on to say that it “strongly refutes inclusion on the Which? red list of companies to avoid due to poor refund policies”. It concluded by adding, “we believe if Which? had approached our customers or partners they would have received a more accurate picture of how we have handled cancellations throughout this period.”

In reply, Which? claimed that “Several companies have now come forward, at the very last minute, (my italics) to clarify their policies – we will therefore be removing the following companies from the tool while we investigate and reclassify them as necessary.” That suggests that Which? gave companies lots of time to reply and followed up non-responders in order to obtain answers which seems not to have been the case judging by the ire that their Holiday Checker has caused.

The companies still being assesses by Which? are Beachcomber Tours, Ionian Island Holidays, Inspired by Travel, Mercury Holidays, Newmarket Holidays Ltd, Sailing Holidays, Travel Department and Travel Editions.

AITO said, “If a beleaguered tour operator with just a few staff working their socks off to respond to client queries (because it’s made other employees redundant due to lack of income) doesn’t respond to a four-page survey on Covid from Which?, then the consumer magazine can say ‘don’t book with this company’?

“This is nothing short of outrageous.”

That Which? responded so quickly is important for those companies affected. How they are listed after investigation will be interesting to see.

And how Which? is regarded will also be of interest. This blunder hasn’t helped its reputation in the travel industry and if companies lose business as a result of misinformation – because that is surely what it is – the industry will be loath to co-operate with the organisation again.

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