Titans that came up trumps in a crisis: Travel firms to trust for your post-lockdown holiday
- Trailfinders tops the list for service and strong finances, writes Neil Simpson
- Kuoni is singled out by researchers at Which? for a fair-play refund policy
- Smaller firms such as Inn Travel and Leger Holidays have also won praise
Every week our Holiday Hero Neil Simpson takes an in-depth look at an important holiday topic, doing all the legwork so you don’t have to. This week: travel firms to trust for your next holiday.
Look ahead to 2021 and you’ll find a series of amazing holiday deals already appearing. Trailfinders is offering savings of more than £1,500 per couple on seven-night wellness holidays in St Lucia – stays in an all-inclusive five-star hotel with complimentary spa treatments each day and dinner in a choice of five restaurants every night now costs £2,699pp.
Turn to Kuoni and you can find flights and ten-night self-drive tours through Florida to take in the Art Deco buildings of Miami, the shabby chic of Key West and Fort Lauderdale’s sandy beaches from £1,695pp. Alternatively, get away from it all on a 12-night tour of remote lodges and safari hotels in Namibia, on offer from Exodus from £3,199pp, including flights.
Putting on the style: The iconic Art Deco buildings of Miami can be seen on a Florida self-drive tour
But is it wise to book 2021 trips while the travel industry is in the midst of a storm over slow refunds on many of this year’s breaks?
No one can say where we may be next summer. But it is already clear which companies have treated their customers best throughout the coronavirus crisis to date.
Heading our hall of fame is Trailfinders (trailfinders.com), which tops the list for service and strong finances. While most rivals are offering customers only vouchers for cancelled holidays, it continues to offer refunds on demand. It has also won fans for its ‘virtual appointments’, with staff connected to their usual research and reservation systems from home.
Kuoni (kuoni.co.uk) is singled out by researchers at Which? for a fair-play refund policy, while Exodus (exodus.co.uk) has won plaudits for its flexible deposits plan. This means customers booking now can switch to any other holiday for free up to ten weeks before departure.
Solo traveller firm Friendship Travel (friendshiptravel.com) also has a good record for flexibility and refunds. Premier Inn (premierinn.com) gets a mention for recrediting cards quickly, while Caribbean specialist Sandals (sandals.co.uk) is on the list for helping pioneer discounts to NHS workers booking for next summer.
It’s equally important to know your tour firm won’t abandon you if things go wrong while you’re away. Experts in the Travel Counsellors group (travelcounsellors.co.uk) went to extraordinary lengths to repatriate clients when borders began to close in March.
Rare treat: Spot leopards on a bargain safari tour of Namibia
One Norfolk-based counsellor started organising emergency paperwork at 4am while tracking a series of back-up flights to get one couple home from Vietnam and another from the South Pacific.
Staff at Titan Travel (titantravel.co.uk) did similarly sterling work, including putting customers in Australia on a non-stop flight from Darwin to the UK when the original route via Singapore was cancelled.
And while those who booked travel through international firms such as Expedia say they were left hanging on phone lines for hours when the first wave of flight cancellations hit, clients of smaller, UK-based firms had no such problems. Holidaymakers with Inn Travel (inntravel.co.uk), Newmarket Holidays (newmarketholidays.co.uk) and Leger Holidays (leger.co.uk) have all won praise. Leger, for example, instantly moved this year’s cancelled bookings for the Oberammergau Passion Play in Bavaria to the rescheduled 2022 dates while honouring 2020 prices.