Tourism industry’s chain of problems
Economy29 April 2020, 15:37 279
Or how can companies find common ground with customers?
"As a family, we purchased a plane ticket to Turkey’s Alanya region and booked a hotel last year. We planned the holiday in June. However, we had to postpone our visit due to the coronavirus pandemic. The airline has canceled the flight and offers to change the ticket. Our correspondence with the hotel also offers to transfer the reservation to the same date next year. But we are in trouble because we do not know whether we will be able to travel to the same region next year.” I came across this social media status of a person who had made travel plans. Since my friends and I face the same problem, and I come across such posts and comments more and more often, I asked tourism professionals about ways to solve the problem. Of course, the situation is not favorable for them or the customers. Not only have tourism companies been deprived of the revenues of the upcoming tourism season, but they now have to face travelers who have been hit hard by the pandemic. Though there are many addresses to appeal to, the answer remains the same – change the reservation date.
It is no exception that as the tourist season approaches, we will face more and more complaints from citizens. In particular, those who buy low-cost tickets in advance and book hotels individually in different tourist regions of Turkey, as well as those who receive a plane ticket + hotel + insurance + transfer package from tourism companies, are experiencing the same tension. For example, the Tez Tour company offers its customers the following: "Tourists flying to Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, and Egypt can transfer their reservations to 2021 under the same conditions and prices. The date, the hotel, the type of room, and the length of stay remain the same. Children are also included in this price category.
Of course, people are not only worried about their money, the services they have not yet used, but also want to get legal help. Tourism companies see a way out of the situation in a mutually agreeable solution. Hotels, in turn, have a policy of rescheduling. Their offer to customers is the same as the offer of airlines: to change the date of the reservation to the same date next year.
In this situation, tourism companies are faced with the task of finding common ground with customers, convincing the customer, who they consider always right, that the pandemic has created difficulties for everyone, and inviting clients to take a more understanding approach to customer-tourism company relations.
Head of Globus Travel Eldaniz Safarov said that major tour operators have not yet fully decided whether hotels will refund customers. "So, mechanisms are still being developed. However, at this stage, some tour operators have decided that customers can use the service on the same dates next year. That is, there is no talk of refunds. Because the tour operator has transferred the money from the client to the partner company, which in turn has paid the hotel to reserve rooms. The hotel has spent this money on repairs and other internal expenses. In this situation, there is a chain of problems,” he noted.
According to the tourism professional, most customers bought tour packages to Turkey’s Antalya, Bodrum, and Kusadasi regions. "In any case, the situation is difficult for both tourism companies and customers,” he added.
Rahman Guliyev, director at Luna Travel, also said the problem was serious. "The summer season is coming. People have bought tour packages for a certain cost in advance for the summer holidays. Of course, the sale of these tour packages starts earlier. Reservations usually start in early December-January and last until May. The pandemic started to spread in Azerbaijan in March. People had already booked for the summer through tourism companies until December, January, February, and March. These reservations were made in three forms: those who purchased only tickets, those who bought a ready-made tour package consisting of a hotel + ticket, and those who booked just a hotel. These are adjusted based on different principles,” he said.
According to the tourism professional, airlines respond to customers who have bought a single ticket for the summer period following their set conditions. According to him, the tourism company is not to blame in this matter. "Because tourism companies act as intermediaries between airlines and customers. Whatever decision airlines, hotels, and international partners make on this issue, we will convey it to customers. It is known that airlines also act under the requirements and recommendations of the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Hotels also solve problems under the requirements and recommendations of the International Hotels and Restaurants Association or the Ministry of Tourism of that country. In the middle, tourism companies face customers. In this regard, customers should be understanding with tourism companies,” Guliyev said.
Guliyev noted that rescheduling flights vary depending on the airline. "For example, all airlines, including Azerbaijan Airlines, prefer to change flight dates within a year. If a refund is required, the terms of the refund will be reviewed 60 days after the start of the flight. According to the decision in force, airline tickets expire after one year, which also applies to tour packages. Citizens who have booked reservations in Turkey in May-July can change the package to August. Most likely, the flights will resume in August. Rules have been implemented in this regard and changes are expected in the rules. There are also opportunities to transfer booked flights and hotel reservations to the next year. There is even a possibility to change the name, according to information from international partner companies. The rules are expected to change in the coming days. We will be informed about these changes. Tourism companies will also hold discussions with travelers and find a suitable option,” he said.
According to the tourism professional, people have purchased travel packages to various destinations in Turkey for the summer holidays - Antalya, Bodrum, Kusadasi, Marmaris, Istanbul, Izmir, Cappadocia. "However, tourists themselves sometimes buy tickets directly from hotels or through various systems or make hotel reservations. Customers have more trouble when they directly make reservations. In other words, the situation becomes more difficult without the mediation of a tourism company. Because tourism companies make reservations with airlines and hotels on behalf of customers. That is, the customer directly faces difficulties with changing, returning, or replacing the hotel reservation. Tourism companies are negotiating with hotels and partner companies. Most likely, the money is not refunded, but the date of the reservation is adjusted,” he noted. However, the tourism professional wanted to reassure customers that no one's money will be lost. "Both airlines and hotels generally prefer to change reservation dates,” he added.
All that remains is for customers to wait and hope that steps will be taken to support them in this direction. The mechanism to be developed in this direction may dictate other, more favorable conditions for the client. In any case, there is no choice but to wait.