Recession, volcanic ash, strikes, companies going under, recession recovery (or not?) and the possibility of more strikes…It’s no wonder one of the big issues in the travel industry is ‘Duty of CareInitiatives’. Here’s what I think about a DMC’s obligation to their visiting clients who are in the midst of 'travel disasters'.
So far in 2010 the travel industry has had a bumpy ride, from struggling to recover from the recession, to volcanic ash grounding Europe, BA’s continued strikes and the alarming number of travel companies going under with little or no warning, like the ill-fated Fly Globespan & more recently, Gold Trail.
So just when you thought the UK’s travel industry was settling down after a rocky start to the year, Unite (the Union for BAA employees) is due to announce the results of a ballot for a strike that could affect travel to and from 6 of the UK major airports, include Heathrow, Stanstead, Glasgow & Edinburgh.
As a result of all this havoc, duty of care initiatives, cancellation terms and contract negotiations have been catapulted into the forefront of business travellers most concerning issues, making the question, “what if?” a frequent query for DMC's and travel planners.
Legal or moral duty?
In the UK, Duty of Care is a legal obligation to provide a standard of reasonable care when performing acts that could foreseeably harm others, but for a DMC, is should be much more about a moral obligation than the minimum requirements of a legal one.
I see DMC’s as an extension of their client’s office, in their own local destination. Therefore, if a client has a problem, is stranded or at risk of loss, their DMC not only has a moral obligation to do everything in their power to assist them, they should also have a will to be as helpful as possible!
You’d be hard pushed to find a supplier contract that covers the eventuality of natural disasters or unforeseen circumstances, yet many clients have raised the point following the recent travel risks.
The problem is, this is pretty impossible and would involve monumental changes at industry and even political levels to reinforce. This doesn’t give much solace to those who are planning to travel, however in saying that, your DMC should do everything within their power to mitigate against any damage or loss for you, including offering flexibility in contractual issues where possible.
DMC’s can have a powerful influence over minimising the impact of a travel disaster, but only if they have strong relationships with their suppliers, affording an element of flexibility.
For example, when the volcanic ask cloud closed down UK and European airspace earlier this year, some of our clients had no choice but to either shelve their incentive plans, which they were reluctant to do, or to re-arrange their travel plans for later in the year.
Thanks to some hard negotiating by the project team, the respective hotels, venues and other major suppliers agreed to carry over the booking to later in the year, without incurring any additional costs.
That’s not to say that DMC’s can wave a magic wand and make everything better! There will always be certain situations that are out of their control, for example, small companies or individuals e.g. guides, simply have no option but to charge for their time.
Or, if you’ve got a group of say 80, due to arrive in 3 days time, from 10 different countries and there’s an air strike, it can be difficult to provide solutions to absolutely every aspect of the trip.
Ultimately DMC’s should sympathise with your situation, offer flexibility and do everything possible to provide you with the best options to mitigate against loss, just like you would expect from your own in-house team.
Asked your DMC what support they can offer you whilst you're in their destination.