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What is ABTA and how does it work?

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When it comes to booking holidays, one thing you should always look out for is whether your holiday is ABTA (and ATOL) protected. But what does that actually mean? In today’s post I will be looking into ABTA – what it is, what it means and what they do. So if you’re looking for more information about ABTA and how it works, look no further!

What does ABTA stand for?

ABTA technically stands for Association of British Travel Agents, which was the previous name of the organisation; its full name is now ‘ABTA, The Travel Association’ which it has been since July 2007. The name change happened to better reflect the organisation’s wider representation of the travel industry as a whole.

What does ABTA do?

If your holiday is ABTA-protected, that means you’re entitled to protection if anything goes wrong. Specifically, ABTA protection relates to UK-based holidays that don’t include or involve flights – basically, land or sea based holidays are covered by ABTA. So if you book a rail, coach or cruise package holiday through an ABTA member, then your holiday (and the money you spent on it!) are covered. 

The main issue that ABTA protects travellers and holidaymakers from is the unlikely event of the travel company they’ve booked through going bust in the run up to, or during, the trip. Everything will be refunded if you are yet to go on your travels, and if you’re already there when they news breaks then your transport home will be covered thanks to ABTA.

Read also: The 7 stages of trip planning

Luckily, with ABTA there is an easy process to follow if something like this happens, as it can get confusing when it comes to which company affects which part of your holiday . For example, if you booked through a travel agent and they go out of business then this won’t have any effect on your trip as they’re simply a middle man. But if the tour operator themselves have gone out of business, this is where it becomes more of an issue. The ABTA website can help you work out if your holiday has gone to pot and also provide you with everything you need to make a claim.

What else does ABTA do?

There is a code of conduct that ABTA members must abide by  – the rules surround issues such as:

  • Fair terms of trading
  • Accurate advertising
  • How to manage customer complaints,
  • Any changes to holiday bookings
  • The correct paperwork to provide travellers and holidaymakers with.

For example, if significant changes are made to your travel arrangements, such as dates and hotels being switched, ABTA rules state that the customer must be given the choice of a refund if they’re not happy with the new itinerary. Another example lies with building work: if there’s nearby building work being done that will ‘seriously impair’ your holiday, a suitable alternative must be sorted out for you. 

ABTA members must also offer advice and/or assistance when it comes to visas and passports, as well as health concerns when it comes to travelling. If there’s a significant delay, customers must be offered a refund if they no longer want to/are able to travel. If ABTA members don’t play by the rules they can face sanctions from the organisation, too.

How do I know if the travel company I’ve booked through is ABTA-protected?

Unfortunately, the ABTA website does not provide a definitive list of all the travel companies that are ABTA members. However, that’s not to say you can’t find out – head to their website and type in the name of the company or organisation you have booked through to confirm that they are a member of ABTA. Most registered companies will have the logo displayed on their site and any correspondence, but it’s still worth double checking on the ABTA site as some companies have been known to try and fool potential customers by claiming to be an ABTA member. This is rare, though, so you should be fine.

A few more things to note about ABTA

Make sure you keep hold of any and all correspondence between you and your travel company in case you need to make any sort of complaint or appeal to ABTA following a lack of reply from the company you booked with in the event of an issue. You also still need to take out travel insurance for your holiday even if your trip is ABTA-protected, to ensure medical issues and personal effects/belongings are covered too.

So there you have it – you’re a bit more clued up on what ABTA is than you were before. Hopefully your next holiday will run smoothly but just in case, ABTA are there to ensure any issues get sorted.

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