Caribbean tourism stakeholders supporting travelers impacted by Thomas Cook dissolution
Officials optimistic about latest developments to keep Condor Airlines flying to the region
Expressing concern for the thousands of travelers, employees and businesses impacted by the closure of British travel group Thomas Cook, the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) commended the region's and global tourism industry stakeholders for moving swiftly to support impacted travelers.
The trade body also thanked industry partners for proactive measures to identify alternative opportunities for travelers who were originally planning to travel to the region through Thomas Cook this fall and winter.
Citing the latest developments, the region's tourism stakeholders expressed hope that a bridge loan to Thomas Cook's German-based Condor Airlines will be approved, restoring a potential of over 200,000 visitors to the Caribbean in the coming months.
The world's oldest travel agency, Thomas Cook, recently announced it was forced to dissolve due to mounting financial losses.
"The British authorities are doing their best to limit the inconvenience caused to thousands of travelers affected by the rapid closure of Thomas Cook and getting them home as quickly as possible at the conclusion of their planned holiday," stated CHTA President Patricia Affonso-Dass.
The Caribbean was expecting over 400,000 travelers from the United Kingdom and Europe this winter through Thomas Cook, representing a significant portion of the region's 30 million annual overnight visitors.
Finalization of a major development on Tuesday whereby the German government provisionally agreed to shore up Germany-based Condor Airlines (which is part of the Thomas Cook group) by approving a €380 million six-month bridge loan, would restore over 200,000 airline seats to the Caribbean. The loan needs final approval by the European Union.
While many of the travelers caught in the Thomas Cook dissolution are protected for some of their expenses through ATOL (Air Travel Organisers' Licencing) - established by the British Government to protect most air package holidays sold by UK-based tour operators - private travel insurance and credit card settlements, the CHTA president lamented that this often does not cover all expenses and the inconveniences caused when plans are disrupted.
The association pointed to the importance of travelers considering insurance protection for unforseen circumstances. CHTA partners with Trip Mate which gives its member hotels the option of making travel insurance available to consumers at affordable rates.
Responding to reports of some Thomas Cook travelers being prevented from leaving hotels based outside the Caribbean, CHTA said its members are encouraged to help, and not hinder, distressed tourists: "We continue to encourage our members to show maximum compassion for those affected by the collapse, and to work with authorities to ensure Thomas Cook travelers are comfortable as they await repatriation home," added Affonso-Dass.
Additionally, she asserted that CHTA will continue to provide information to its members and work to ensure that they have all information necessary to allow them to claim for outstanding payments that may be due for stays where guests have already departed.
The Barbados-based hotelier underscored the seriousness of the loss to the industry but also pointed to the achievements of the world's oldest travel agency: "In these sad days, our hearts go out to those who will have suffered from the collapse but at the same time, I would like to recognize how Thomas Cook, for almost 200 years, managed to open up the world to millions of people. One could argue that the Caribbean's success as one of the world's most desired vacation destinations was made possible because of the business model which they developed years ago".