While it is hoped that your holiday will be incident free and remembered for all the right reasons, a small minority each year will have their holidays ruined by injury or illness.
When things do go wrong during your holiday it is vital that you take steps to address the problem or your rights may be affected should you wish to claim compensation upon your return to the United Kingdom.
The steps that you take are important as there are many factors involved that ensure your complaint is a successful one.
If something goes wrong during the course of your holiday, there is an expectation for you to report the problems you experience to either your holiday rep or someone at the hotel.
If the problem can be resolved immediately such as a fault with the air-conditioning that is fixed shortly after you have reported, there is little point making a formal complaint as you are unlikely to receive compensation – and you are best advised to get on with enjoying the rest of your holiday.
However for persistent problems such as issues with the health and safety of the hotel, problems with noisy building work or issues relating to food quality, it is vital that you keep a written record of your complaint. The larger tour operators will usually have 'customer complaint' or 'customer relations report' forms. Make sure you keep a copy and that it is signed by the representatives. The larger hotels tend to have Guest Relations Managers that you can report problems to.
We also advise that you email your travel company directly with details of your complaint so they cannot deny at a later stage that you did not complain.
It is particularly important that you keep a written copy of your complaint about an injury or illness that you happened while on holiday. Failure to do so may mean that you have problems proving your claim later on.
If you wish to make a complaint upon your return to the UK with a view to claiming compensation, it is vital that you find the right company to complain to. If you have booked a package holiday, it will usually be the tour operator that you must complain to as opposed to your travel agent because your contract will be with the tour operator.
If you have not booked a package holiday it may be that you can complain to the booking agent. Although if your contract is directly with the hotel, you will need to complain to the hotel based in whatever country you booked it in - which can be problematic. We recommend that you book a package holiday using a reputable UK company to avoid this.
If you have a suffered from an accident or illness while on holiday we recommend that you contact a lawyer to gain advice first. If you choose not to do this it could ruin your chances of being able to make a successful claim. You should also be aware that if your claim against the tour operator fails, you could be liable for their legal costs. Our lawyers can talk you through our funding arrangements where you will not be left out of pocket – even if your claim does not succeed.
Many tour operators are members of the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA).
ABTA requires its members to adhere to a Code of Conduct. Tour operators must provide details of their complaints procedure both on their website and in the booking terms and conditions at the back of their brochure. It is advisable to follow this complaint procedure to begin with.
Under ABTA guidelines, the tour operator must acknowledge the complaint within 14 days and then provide you with a substantive response to the complaint within 28 days. Failure to do this leaves the tour operator open to a large fine.
If you find that the Tour operator is ignoring you and your complaint then there are a number of options open to you.