An increasing number of travellers are now opting to independently organise all the elements of their holiday rather than buying a ready-made package holiday or engaging a travel agency to take care of all the bookings.
The internet has made such a task possible and quite easy too. Through the internet one can book the flight, accommodation, excursions and any other commodity necessary for the holiday.
Creating from scratch and booking one’s own holiday may also be cheaper, as one can look out for the best market deals and also save on any charges and fees a travel agency may impose for arranging and booking a package holiday.
To ensure we get the best holiday for the best price, we need to shop around. To compare costs of package holidays with self-booked holidays, we first need to check out the prices of package holidays.
We should then calculate the costs of putting together the holiday ourselves. To obtain an accurate comparison, it is necessary to take all the elements of the holiday into account.
When it comes to protection, booking a package holiday from a travel agency can put one’s mind more at rest.
Travel agents are responsible for the package they sell us and must ensure each and every aspect of the holiday is executed as promised in the information material given to us upon booking the holiday.
According to the Package Travel Regulations, travel agencies and tour operators are obliged to provide us with all the necessary information about the chosen package.
This information should include the price of the package, including taxes and any compulsory charges; type of accommodation; itinerary; meal plan; and detailed description of the excursions, when these are purchased as part of the package holiday.
If any of the information provided proves to be false or misleading, we may be entitled to compensation for the loss suffered.
Problem-solving may, in fact, be viewed as an added advantage of package holidays. While independent travellers will have to sort out any problem that crops up, with package holidays it is up to the package organiser to solve the problem.
Furthermore, if the problem is not solved during the holiday, package holiday travellers have a company to complain to, and this also makes it easier to get redress.
The regulations also clearly explain the kind of compensation to be provided and in what circumstances it is to be provided. If, for instance, a significant change is made to the holiday booked after departure, we are entitled to suitable alternative arrangements and, where applicable, to compensation.
If the alternative arrangements are of a lesser value than the ones originally booked, we are firstly entitled to a proportionate compensation.
We may also be entitled to seek refund of any extra money we had to spend as a direct result of the discrepancies in the original package.
Financial compensation may also be claimed for moral damages, for the inconvenience or stress we had to go through due to the shortcomings we encountered during our holiday.
If, however, the change in the package holiday was beyond the travel agency’s control, legally no compensation can be claimed. For instance, the agency cannot be held responsible for any change in plans or cancellations due to bad weather, strikes or unavoidable breakdowns.
It is also not liable to provide us with a refund if it is we who decide to cancel the holiday. The same situation applies if we book the holiday independently.
Some extra protection may be obtained through a travel insurance policy. Such policy may cover us in situations where the law does not, such as in cases of accidents or falling ill during the holiday.
However, before buying a travel insurance, ideally we should check what is covered on the policies of several insurance companies and select the one that offers the best cover. Should we face any problems during our holiday, it is imperative we complain immediately and try to sort the problem there and then.
If we are part of a tour, we should address our complaint to the agency’s representative, and if we are travelling independently we should complain to the service provider in question.
If an immediate solution is not possible, our complaint should be put in writing.
It is also advisable to collect and keep all evidence and documents relevant to the complaint for future use.
SOURCE: TIMES OF MALTA
AUTHOR: ODETTE VELLA