New CHOICE research has revealed that only 23% of Australians feel confident to make travel plans in the next 12 months.
This statistic is not surprising, given that CHOICE's research also found that almost 1 in 2* Australians have had to cancel travel plans since March 2020 due to COVID-19 risks, border closures or lockdowns.
Australians have then had to grapple with unfair and unclear procedures when trying to get their money back for cancelled travel plans.
"While the pandemic itself is enough to make anyone cautious about making plans, a big complaint Australians have is how they are treated when their travel plans have to be cancelled. Since the pandemic began, CHOICE has heard from thousands of people who waited months to get their money back, have been stuck with travel credits they can't use or have been stung by surprising commissions or fees and lost thousands as a result," says CHOICE consumer rights expert, Alison Elliott.
CHOICE's research found that:
- 68% of Australians would feel confident making a travel booking in the next 12 months if they had a guaranteed right to a refund in all cases.
- 60% would feel confident if they had access to clear and standard information about what would happen if your booking has to be cancelled at time of booking.
- 53% would feel confident if they had a guaranteed right to refund, minus any reasonable expenses of the business.
- 48% would feel confident if there were minimum terms around travel credits/vouchers to make them usable.
- 47% would feel confident if there was an independent body they could contact with their complaints.
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"The laws that left travellers in cancellation chaos throughout 2020 remain the same today. Anyone who needs to cancel travel is going to have to wade through unclear terms and conditions of each individual business they book with, and try and get help without the support of good quality complaints handling systems. We need stronger and clearer rights to book travel with confidence, particularly as international borders begin to open," says Elliott.
"Federal and State governments must urgently implement reforms that will make it easier for travellers to obtain refunds when their plans are cancelled."
CHOICE is calling for the following 7 reforms to be implemented by Federal and State governments:
- Easier travel refunds.
- Minimum voucher/credit rights.
- A mandatory industry code for all airlines and large travel providers.
- A travel and tourism industry ombudsman.
- A mandatory information standard at time of booking.
- An ACCC market study into the travel and tourism sector.
- A national travel restrictions website.
"Once these reforms have been implemented, Australians will be able to book holiday plans confidently and without stress. We want to see a situation where a family living in Victoria could book a trip to the Gold Coast in six months time, knowing that if they did have to cancel, they wouldn't have to worry about struggling to get a refund on top of the disappointment of missing a holiday," says Elliott.
Sign the petition for better travel rights here: https://action.choice.com.au/page/85927/petition/
Read the full story here: www.choice.com.au/travelreform
You can access CHOICE's travel report here, released in July 2021: https://www.choice.com.au/travelreport
Media contact: 0430 172 669, firstname.lastname@example.org
CHOICE conducted a survey of 1,045 Australians from 15 to 29 September, 2021. The data has been weighted to ensure it is representative of the Australian population based on the 2016 ABS Census data based on age, state, gender, household income and education levels.
*Participants were asked whether their travel plans have been cancelled since March 2020. 47% indicated yes, 28% indicated no and 24% said they haven't made any travel plans.