ASTA is calling on tour operators to do right by travel advisors regarding commission payments and policy changes during the coronavirus crisis.

While cancellations are “painful enough,” ASTA said the retroactive changing of refund, cancellation and commission policies are “far more egregious.”

ASTA president and CEO Zane Kerby addressed the issue on a media call on Thursday.

“There has been a growing chorus of our members who have noticed that some tour operators are not acting responsibly or acting with a very short-term mindset,” Kerby said. “We understand the cash crunch that everyone is under, but by holding onto customer deposits and only offering future credits, in some instances they are going against policies that they have adhered to in their own books, and in other cases they could be running afoul of state or federal law.”

He said, “We’re calling on the tour operator community to certainly act responsibly in these times.”

ASTA said that when a supplier doesn’t honor its cancellation, rebooking and refund policies, they run afoul of consumer-protection laws and make travel advisors vulnerable to legal action from their customers.

“This practice is, in a word, unacceptable,” ASTA said.

On the flip side, some tour operators have amended policies to be more consumer-friendly while protecting travel advisor commissions, which ASTA applauded.

ASTA called on tour operators to do the following. The list was developed in conjunction with member agencies, franchisors and consortia:

• Ensure that all travel components are fully refundable and not merely credited for future travel.

• Honor the original agency commissions on all bookings if the travel is rebooked. If the travel is refunded, consider a partial commission payment.

• Honor agency commissions at time of deposit and/or at time of final payment.

• Forgo the practice of assessing cancellation fees on rebooked or refunded itineraries and ensure that travel credits are at least equal to the price the customer paid.

• Set no time limit on any credit issued for canceled bookings when taken in lieu of a refund. At the very least, make the credit good for a minimum of two years from the original departure date. 

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