When it comes to planning your winter getaway (or any vacation for that matter), you have many choices to make: where to go and what to see, and if you should head to the slopes or somewhere warm. But what many British Columbian travellers don’t realize is the most important vacation decision of all may lie with the choice to book with a BC-licensed travel agent.
The biggest advantage to consumers who book with a BC-licensed travel agent is having access to the Travel Assurance Fund, a program administered by Consumer Protection BC that acts as a potential source of compensation for vacationers who purchased – but didn’t receive – travel services booked through a BC-licensed travel agent. The fund is one of last resort, providing possible reimbursement to travellers who were unable to recover costs through other traditional methods, such as insurance and credit card providers and bankruptcy trustees. So far in 2012, we’ve paid out more than $174,000 to consumers who made a claim to the Travel Assurance Fund.
Check out the stories of three different consumers who have been helped by the fund this past year:
Alice and Diana
Having purchased overseas trips with Cruise West, a cruise provider, Alice was gearing up for a journey from Costa Rica to Panama while Diana was set to embark on a 75-day cruise that would pass through such destinations as Ecuador, Easter Island and the Cook Islands. Each had booked through a BC-licensed travel agent who, in turn, paid the cruise provider. In September 2010, before the two headed off on their vacations, Cruise West, went out of business.
After exhausting all other avenues of compensation and upon the advice of her travel agent, Diana came to Consumer Protection BC to enquire about recovering money through the fund.
“The experience was quite nice – I had no trouble at all,” said Diana.
And while Diana was pleased to recover part of her costs through the fund (there’s a maximum reimbursement of $5,000 per traveller), she’s regretful that she’ll never walk that gangway and embark on her cruise of a lifetime.
“It’s not completely about the money – it’s also about the lost experience. My husband and I travel a great deal, that’s what we saved our money for. You never really expect something like this to happen to you.”
While checking out of an Italian hotel during a three-week family vacation, Ronald learned his tour operator, Italian Visits, had gone out of business. Even though Ronald had already prepaid for the rooms through his licensed travel agent (who, in turn, had paid the tour operator), the hotel had not received payment, meaning Ronald had pay twice.
For more information about the Travel Assurance Fund, please visit our Consumer Help page. If you have any questions, please post in comments below.