People in New South Wales and throughout Australia have faced considerable consumer problems with travel service cancellations since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost 1 in 2 Australians (47%) have had to cancel travel plans since March 2020 due to COVID-19 risks, border closures or lockdowns.
CHOICE welcomes the NSW Government consultation on a proposed information standard for the NSW Travel Industry. When cancellations have occurred, consumers have experienced:
- Poor information about consumer rights;
- Poor customer service and complaints processes, including limited means of communication and significant delay, and complex agency arrangements making refunds more difficult;
- Inconsistent and unfair remedies, including consumers being out of pocket and being provided with impractical or useless credits and vouchers; and
- Poor protections when travel businesses become insolvent.
These problems have greatly affected consumer confidence to book travel and tourism services. In September 2021, only 23% of Australians felt confident about booking flights, accommodation or other travel services in the next 12 months.
An information standard applying to NSW travel service providers would help improve the experience of people travelling in New South Wales by helping to address poor information about consumer rights.
Some 60% of people in nationally representative research conducted by CHOICE in September 2021 indicated that clear and standard information (at time of booking) about what will happen if their booking has to be cancelled would make them feel confident about booking travel again. Requiring travel service providers to disclose this information upfront will empower consumers and give them confidence to book travel in and around New South Wales again, despite ongoing uncertainty around the pandemic.