We’d like to take the opportunity to respond to the BBC article published this morning and provide greater detail on the current situation.
Unfortunately, we are not in a position to offer refunds to guests who have had bookings affected by the Covid-19 outbreak. We have not adopted this stance out of choice or as a way for us to make a profit but sadly out of necessity. It pains us to do this to our guests, some of whom have been extremely loyal to us over the years.
At this point in the season the bulk of our costs have already been incurred and we are unable to recover them. We have seen sales stop overnight and we have no visibility on when they will start up again [and, as a result, we are likely to be loss-making for the season]. The latest forecasts from Tourism Economists is that business will only begin to recover in October. As a small family-owned business we simply do not have the financial resources to allow us to refund all the bookings without going bankrupt, which would result in numerous people losing their jobs. We are also unable to move bookings to next year as we would only be delaying the financial damage, and the outcome would be the same.
We have been open and honest with all our guests from the outset, explaining to them the situation and that the only viable option for them to recover their money is to claim on their insurance. We have always tried to protect our guests, and this is why we state in our Booking Terms & Conditions that guests must have insurance that provides them with adequate protection for events such as these. Most of our guests have accepted this and are progressing with claims, which we are assisting with in any way possible. This includes the guests from the article, who we have provided with the documentation needed to support their insurance claim via a booking agent.
We are asking guests to pursue their claims up to the Ombudsman if their insurers will not pay out and, if they don’t get a favourable response, to get back in contact with us again.
This is an exceptionally difficult time for the travel industry, and we are doing everything we can to help guests. Over the past few weeks The industry has been lobbying the government for support and we hope there may be developments in the coming weeks and months to assist both guests and companies such as ours. We have said to all guests that if the government announces additional aid to the travel industry and we will pass these benefits directly on to guests affected by this.
This situation is unprecedented, the global tourism business has ceased to exist, and we weren’t expecting or prepared for such a situation. Before the resort closed, as of the 13th March, ski resorts in France were declaring that they had no intention to close and would remain open as planned until May. We could have never predicted this as these events were completely outside of our control.
That being said we cannot expect to continue as before and expect the industry to remain the same following this crisis. It is for that reason that, even at this stage, we are exploring ways in which we can change our business to ensure that we, and as a direct consequence, our guests, are better protected if a situation like this arises again.
We would also like to take this chance to thank all those who have offered messages of support at this time, including those from holiday or chalet companies alike who are in a similar situation, as we are all facing the battle to save our skiing and global tourism industries.
As a company we have been providing guests with excellent chalet holidays at exceptional value for money for over 20 years, and we have always taken pride in our reputation and the esteem that our guests hold us in. We understand that the current situation may have tarnished that, but we hope that this statement has provided you with some background, and that as a result you can judge us in a fairer light.
Update to statement regarding BBC article:
Further to some comments we have received we would like the clarify the following:
- There is a fixed, and diminishing, pool of money we could use for refunds. This will not come close to covering everybody who has booked and then had to cancel. We are attempting to recover some money from suppliers and landlords but this will likely be a modest amount
- For this reason we asked our customers to pursue, to the maximum, their travel insurance as far as possible and why we are assisting them with the process as best we can.
- The more clients that are successful in claiming refunds from their insurers, the better we will be able to assist those that have claims denied or fall through the cracks in the process as the more money we will have left to help them
- People take out travel insurance policies for exactly these circumstances, we are unable to obtain insurance that would cover us in this instance and it is why we specified that guests should have it. If the people can successfully claim it will allow us to utilise what money we have to help people who have not been successful. Most of our clients are doing this but some, for unknown reasons, do not wish to do so nor offer any explanation of why they cannot or will not do so. The clients in the article have confirmed with us today that they are claiming on their travel insurance.
- Once the insurance process has been taken as far as it can be we will then use whatever funds remain to find the best solution possible for each booking on a case-by-case basis, for example by making goodwill payments to help with out-of-pocket or uninsured losses.
- There is no question of profiteering. We are trying to keep as much financial solvency as possible to help those in the least favourable position at a later date. Please bear with us and in the meantime please keep pursuing your claims.
We thank those of you that have expressed support and sympathy for the position we all collectively, customers and company alike, find ourselves in.
If you have any further questions please don’t hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
10th April 2020: Update to statement regarding the revision of the BBC article:
Today the BBC have edited the article to change the headline from ‘We won’t get a refund…’ to ‘We are struggling to get a refund…” They now include the details that the couple are claiming via their travel insurance and also add some of the missing elements of our statement, notably our offer to work towards an ‘equitable solution’ with the clients once the insurance position has become clear. Originally a false impression was given that we were simply refusing any sort of refund or help. In fact, we had issued papers to the guests in support of their insurance claim on Tuesday, before the story was even published, which presumably they did not reveal to the BBC when interviewed. We have further asked the BBC to include a note that the previous version of the article was misleading.
For the sake of transparency, we have copied below our full statement made to the BBC before they ran the story. It was made on the understanding that it would be published in full and not picked apart to be taken out of context to support the editorial line taken.
We have raised an official complaint with the BBC for both bias and factually inaccurate reporting which, in part, seems to have led to the revision today. Once again thank you for the supportive messages, especially to all our guests who have jumped to our defence and to all our colleagues in the industry who are in the same position. We remain committed to supporting our guests now and in the future.
Our statement to the BBC on the 6th April in full, not their selectively edited parts:
“The measures put in place by both the French and UK governments have had a significant negative impact on our company and its ability to trade. We understand that these are difficult times for everyone, but as a small family-owned business we simply don’t have the financial resources to allow us to refund all of our guests and remain solvent. At this point in the season the bulk of our costs have already been incurred and we are unlikely to be able to recover them. If we were to move the booking to next year it would merely delay the financial issues to then. Sadly the only viable option for guests to recover their money is to claim on their insurance, and we are working hard to assist guests with their claims. It is for these reasons that we stipulate that all guests must have adequate travel insurance cover for events such as these in our Booking Terms and Conditions. In the first instance we are insisting that guests pursue the matter up to the Insurance Ombudsman for a ruling, should their insurers be unwilling to pay out. In the event of non-payment by the insurers we would attempt to find an equitable solution with the guests, but we would still not be able to refund, as we lack the funds to do so. The exceptional nature of the current crisis is the reason that the industry has recently been lobbying the government for support and we hope there may be developments in the coming weeks and months to assist both guests and companies such as ours.”
To read the updated article please visit https://www.bbc.com/news/business-52206832