Thursday, 29 September 2011

Travel agents confused by consumer protection

More than a quarter of travel companies gave customers flawed information about financial protection in a “mystery shopper” probe. In 18% of cases the callers were given inaccurate details and in a further 10% the information dished out was potentially misleading. The survey was conducted by Which? Travel. Its researchers called High Street travel agents and on line and traditional tour operators. Only in three instances were they told without asking whether their payments were protected if a company they were booking with collapsed and whether they would be repatriated if it happened while they were abroad. And only 34% gave a good explanation of what was covered and by who”. The survey was carried out as the Government worked out final details of shake up in protection for air holidaymakers which is intended to extend cover for travellers buying flights and other key holiday elements – such as accommodation – separately rather than as part of a conventional package.

Oman gets new boutique hotel

A new boutique hotel has opened in Oman. The Sifawy is on the coast at at Jebel, less than an hour's drive from the capital, Muscat. Its backdrop is the Hajar mountain rang. The hotel has 55 rooms and suites, all with private balconies. It Marina Suites come with private butlers. Besides a large pool there is an ourdoor Jacuzzi and a fitness centre and a beachside restaurant, which serves locally caught seafood.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Currency exchange charges investigated

The Office of Fair Trading is to investigate charges imposed by banks and other currency exchanges for changing money abroad. The move follows a “super complaint” from watchdog Consumer Focus, which believes a mix of complex fees and poor or misleading information means travellers are paying too much. It says charges for using debit or credit cards overseas are unnecessarily confusing for consumers. They vary significantly and make it difficult for people to establish the full costs and shop around for better deals. Cash withdrawal fees imposed by banks and credit card providers on customers using plastic to buy travel money in the UK do not reflect costs. Consumer Focus says debit and credit card payments cost an average 9p and 37p respectively to process but typical charges to customers are 1.5% - 2% of the amount withdrawn, up to a ceiling of £4.50. And offers of “0 per cent commission” can be misleading as the rate m ay include a mark up to reflect the supposed saving. Mike O'Connor, Consumer Focus's chief executive says: “Almost half of us travel abroad every year and we face a confusing array of often hidden charges every time we buy currency. Converting £500 into euros can cost from under £10 to over £30 depending on where you switch your money. This is a huge difference for essentially providing the same service and typically banks offer the worst deals.”