Intrepid Travel thanks trade for its support despite ‘slow start’ on refunds

Intrepid Travel has thanked UK agents for their support despite not responding “as quickly as we could” with refunds at the start of the Covid-19 crisis.

Group chief executive James Thornton said the company had recognised it was too slow initially to give customer refunds and had since improved and accelerated the process.

He said the company was now up to date on processing refunds. Out of 55,000 customers, 4,221 asked for refunds.

Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, he said: “We are incredibly appreciative of all the support we have had from our trade partners.

“We recognise we probably didn’t respond as quickly as we could to the refunds piece and we wrote an open letter to the trade to that effect at the end of April.

“Since then we have accelerated through the refunds and we have been able to make these happen for the 4,221 customers who wanted them.”

He added: “We have maintained more than 90% of our bookings in travel credits. Clearly, time will tell if we continue to be successful with that as borders remain remain shut, but the sooner we can get people back travelling again, hopefully we can we can start to get people rebooked onto future travel plans.”

Bookings in April were down 98% year on year for the group while in May bookings were 89% down, but sales are now coming in, said Thornton, mainly for post Easter 2021.

He urged agents to continue to support the operator in persuading holidaymakers to rebook on to alternative future trips.

“We request all our travel partners’ support in trying to retain 50,000 odd customers we have and try to get them rebooked on to future travel arrangements,” he added.

The group has just launched a new range of ‘closer to home’ tours to support local communities to recover from the impact of Covid-19, with 12 of its new Intrepid Retreats based in the UK and Europe.

Zina Bencheikh, managing director of EMEA for Intrepid, said more interactive trade activity was planned for UK agents to educate them on its products and policies.

This will include more webinar presentations by Intrepid staff on its range of tours and prices and a two page toolkit for agents. This will include details of the operator’s health and safety policy, booking flexibility, and how the business is resuming operations.

Bencheikh said: “We recognise the struggle agents have had over the last couple of months and it’s great to see they have been really supportive of us. Industry [sales] are growing faster than direct sales and there is a better conversion rate from the industry. We are starting to see positive results.”