What protection do tourists have now?
Under the present Air Travel Organisers' Licensing (ATOL) scheme, tourists who buy package holidays are protected from supplier failure. A small charge is added to the overall cost of the trip to protect tourists if their holiday provider goes under. If it happens during their trip, ATOL will pay for the remainder and their flight home. If they haven't yet departed, it reimburses them for their trip.
What is changing?
As more people are booking their breaks online, the ATOL scheme leaves many people without cover when they may believe they are protected. At the moment, only package holidays are covered. That means that if you buy the different elements through one website but from a number of providers, you are not protected. If the proposed changes are made then these kinds of booking will be covered, providing additional protection for as many as six million holidays.
Is all tourism now covered?
This does not mean that all holiday plans will now be covered by the scheme. In fact, travellers who book just their flights will still not be protected, meaning if their airline went under, they would not be reimbursed.
Do the proposals go far enough?
Some commentators have suggested that the proposals do not go far enough for the UK travel industry. There have been calls for a complete overhaul of the customer protections in place for travel purchases, including suggestions that an overseeing body should be created. This could enforce customer rights and impose regulations on the sector.
Should I still buy travel insurance?
Regardless of whether your planned break is covered by the ATOL scheme or not, you still need travel insurance. This will protect you in a number of situations not covered by ATOL, for example, if you became ill and could not travel. If you know your travel plans are not protected by ATOL then it may be worth considering paying a little more for an insurance policy that comes with "end supplier failure", as this will then pay out if your supplier goes under and you have no cover elsewhere.