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  • Security Law Sends Hong Kong Residents Dashing for the Exit

    (Bloomberg) -- Phyllis Lam has lived in Hong Kong for 42 years. It’s where she was born, went to school, met her husband and planned to raise her two children.But like a growing number of Hongkongers disillusioned by China’s tightening grip on the city, Lam now feels she has little choice but to leave. “I have no confidence in Hong Kong’s future,” she said in an interview. “I have two young kids, so I have to plan for them.”For many in Hong Kong who’ve long feared an erosion of their freedoms under Chinese rule, last week marked a tipping point. Spurred to action by Beijing’s decision to impose controversial national security legislation on the former British colony, residents have been flooding migration consultants with questions on how to move their families overseas.“We get an inquiry every 2 to 3 minutes,” said Gary Leung, chief executive officer of Global Home, a property and migration consultancy. The firm’s client requests have swelled to about 20 times normal levels, with Taiwan and Europe among the most asked-about destinations, Leung said.With many countries still enforcing travel restrictions to fight the coronavirus, it’s too early to gauge how many Hongkongers will ultimately move out. But consultants say the odds of an eventual exodus are growing as lawmakers from the U.K., the U.S. and Taiwan signal they may ease entry requirements for some Hong Kong citizens.A wave of emigration could erode Hong Kong’s attractiveness to multinational companies, hundreds of which rely on local talent to drive their growth across the Greater China region and the rest of Asia. The American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong has warned that retaining top-tier employees in the city may become more difficult.Signs that more Hongkongers are planning to leave have been increasing since last year, when a now-scrapped extradition bill sparked mass protests and violent clashes with police in the heart of the city’s central business district.While Hong Kong doesn’t publish high-frequency immigration statistics, applications for good citizenship cards -- which certify a person doesn’t have a criminal record -- serve as a proxy because they’re often needed to apply for foreign visas. The monthly number of applications averaged 2,935 from June 2019 to April 2020, a 50% jump versus 2018.It’s not the first time the city has faced the prospect of a brain drain. An estimated 300,000 people left between 1990 and 1994, fearing Hong Kong’s handover to China from Britain would destroy the city’s civil liberties and capitalist system. Yet predictions of Hong Kong’s demise ultimately proved unfounded, with its status as Asia’s premier financial hub only becoming more entrenched over the following two decades.Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Friday that the security law will only target “an extremely small minority of illegal and criminal acts” and that the “life and property, basic rights and freedoms of the overwhelming majority of citizens will be protected.” China’s central government has made similar remarks in the past week.Jolie Lo, an administrative executive, is among Hongkongers who plan to stay. She wants to be close to her aging parents and is wary of the challenges she might face overseas.“I may encounter other problems such as racial discrimination,” said Lo, who has studied in New York and worked in Beijing. “I won’t say I regret my decision to come back to Hong Kong. Since we are here now, we should just try our best to preserve our homes.”Read more: What Are the New Laws China Is Pushing for Hong Kong?Others see emigration as their best option. David Hui, managing director at Centaline Immigration Consultants (HK) Ltd., said his firm is now receiving as many as 100 inquiries a day from Hongkongers interested in moving to countries including Australia, the U.K. and Canada. Taiwan, Malaysia and Portugal are also becoming increasingly popular. “The national security law is definitely a push factor,” Hui said.Critics of China’s Communist Party worry that it will use the law to crack down on dissent and undermine the “one country, two systems” principle that has kept Hong Kong’s judiciary separate from the mainland’s since the 1997 handover. In a survey of 9,477 pro-democracy supporters last week by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Program, 96% said they opposed the law. Among those who said they weren’t pro-democracy, 29% opposed it and 62% supported it.“Now I fear censorship could be even more serious in Hong Kong,” said Ming, 30, who works in the art world and declined to give her surname, citing the sensitivity of the subject. “I don’t see a future here anymore, so it’s time to look for options.”Phyllis Lam and her husband, who are both holders of British National (Overseas) passports, haven’t decided yet where they’ll move. Canada is high on the list, but their top choice is the U.K. The country’s Home Office has said it may open a path to citizenship for almost 3 million Hong Kong residents who have BN(O) status.“In any case, we will send the kids away,” Lam said. “We don’t think the current environment in Hong Kong is good for them.”(Updates links under fifth paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Hedge Funds Aren’t Done Buying Amarin Corporation plc (AMRN)

    At the end of February we announced the arrival of the first US recession since 2009 and we predicted that the market will decline by at least 20% in (Recession is Imminent: We Need A Travel Ban NOW). In these volatile markets we scrutinize hedge fund filings to get a reading on which direction each […]

  • Pfizer declines about 8% after setback to breast cancer treatment

    The treatment, Ibrance, was being tested along with the standard of care for early breast cancer in men and women, against standard of care alone, the company said on Friday. The study was broadly seen to have a high probability of success readout, but the early failure represents a meaningful setback for Pfizer, JP Morgan analysts said in a note, cutting its price target on the stock by $1 to $37.

Travel News from ABTA

  • Coronavirus advice for customers

    Coronavirus advice for customers Full Page image sberesford@abt… Fri, 05/22/2020 - 07:09 The coronavirus pandemic is creating exceptional operational and financial challenges for UK travel agents and tour operators, and we fully appreciate the concern this may be causing customers, particularly those who are waiting to find out about future or cancelled bookings. ABTA Members are doing their best to manage arrangements for customers whose holiday bookings have been affected. If your trip is not imminent your travel company may not be in touch with you right away. Travel companies will be managing bookings on a rolling basis by departure date, so please do be patient. They may not contact you until a few weeks before the planned departure date. Please visit the individual websites of our Members to see how they will be communicating with their customers during this crisis. We recognise that travellers will have many questions at this time so we have set out a series of Frequently Asked Questions and answers on the current situation within the below sections, which are: 1. Cancellations and refunds  2. Current restrictions and future travel  3. Advice to customers who are abroad  These answer the most common questions so please do read through these as they should help you to understand how your booking might be affected. Our Customer Support team is experiencing an extremely high volume of calls during this crisis so unfortunately wait times are considerably longer than usual. We would strongly recommend reading the online FAQs and only contacting us by phone if absolutely necessary.  Airlines are not Members of ABTA. If you booked your flight directly with an airline, you will need to contact the airline if you are having any issues with receiving a refund. Not all travel agents and tour operators are Members of ABTA. You can find out if your tour operator or travel company is an ABTA Member using our search tool here. If you have an enquiry about a company that is not a member of ABTA please contact Citizens Advice. 1.    Cancellations and refunds For information about amendments to your booking, refunds for the booking or the availability of Refund Credit Notes, please speak to the travel company that you have booked with. We recognise the urgency of the situation and financial distress that customers may be experiencing.   Travel companies are doing all they can to ensure that holidays can go ahead where and when it is safe to do so and will be keen to offer you a range of options so that you can get the holiday you want.    Where no suitable alternative is possible, your travel company may offer you a refund of the money you paid depending on the terms and conditions of your booking and depending on whether or not you booked a package holiday. Alternatively, some companies might offer you a refund credit note, which is financially protected and entitles you to rebook a holiday or receive a cash refund at a later date, up until the expiry date of the note – please see ‘What is a Refund Credit Note? (RCN)’ below for more information.  You should check your travel insurance policy to see if you have cancellation cover in these circumstances. If you do, you will need to provide evidence of the booking and the reason that it has not gone ahead. Your travel company will be able to assist you with the paperwork for this. If you booked a package holiday, you are entitled to a refund. We completely understand that for those customers that would prefer a refund to rebooking, you may be frustrated and concerned by the amount of time it is taking. In normal circumstances a refund should be paid within 14 days. But these circumstances are extraordinary, and it is simply impossible for many companies to pay monies back as quickly as they would like to as many have not yet received money back from hotels, airlines and other suppliers affected by the crisis.  If your travel provider has said they will offer a cash refund, they should let you know how long this will take. If you have a package holiday booking through a travel agent Many customers will have booked travel arrangements through a travel agent. Your travel agent will have made your booking with a company such as a tour operator or airline, and this is who you have a contract with and who any refund will be due back from. Your travel agent will pass on any refund they receive from these companies as soon as they receive it. As with other Members, travel agents are working very hard behind the scenes pursuing refunds on your behalf as well as taking calls from customers who may be finding it difficult to contact their travel supplier. Why ABTA is supporting the use of Refund Credit Notes (RCNs) Our priority is to ensure that you maintain your right to a refund and financial protection if your package holiday is cancelled, whilst also recognising the exceptional circumstances and huge financial strain on travel businesses.  Many tour operators and travel agents have not yet received money back from hotels, airlines and other suppliers. If travel companies were to fail on a significant scale, it would result in the loss of thousands of jobs and customers would experience many months of delays in receiving a refund from a financial scheme of protection (e.g ATOL).   ABTA’s guidance for its Members on Refund Credit Notes (RCNs) is to ensure that if they are unable to offer an immediate cash refund, they offer credit notes that protect your rights, rather than providing unprotected holiday vouchers. We expect that where customers have requested a refund, ABTA Members should provide this as soon as they are able to. The guidance also ensures that Refund Credit Notes (RCNs) issued by ABTA Members are properly documented and relate to the amount paid for the cancelled booking; are of fixed duration, within which timeframe the customer must be offered a cash refund; and are protected by ABTA or ATOL in the event of the company failing before the Refund Credit Note (RCN) is converted. We’re asking that as many customers as are able to work with us on this. We appreciate that for some it is a significant ask but it will help to ensure your money and your rights are protected, that healthy travel businesses aren’t forced into bankruptcy (leading to many months of delays in recovering refunds) and that when this crisis is over UK holidaymakers will be able to book and enjoy their holidays once more. Why is my refund being delayed? Travel businesses are operating in exceptionally difficult circumstances, with higher volumes of enquiries and often with fewer staff, and because of this it may be taking them longer to process refunds, which is understandably frustrating for customers.  In addition, many tour operators don’t have the cash to pay customers a cash refund for a package holiday in a 14-day period, as they have not yet received money back from hotels, airlines and other suppliers affected by the crisis. Forcing them to do so would put many of them out of business, which would mean customers would not get their money back for many more months, as the Government-backed ATOL scheme of financial protection could not cope with the sheer volume of refunds. It would also result in significant long-term damage to the UK travel industry. What can ABTA do to ensure I get a refund for my package holiday? If your package holiday has been affected and you do not wish to rebook, you are entitled to a refund. Your travel provider might also offer you a Refund Credit Note (RCN) (see FAQ on Refund Credit Notes), which can either be used to rebook at a future date or be redeemed for a cash refund. If neither of these options are offered we will be able to contact the Member for you.  If you would like a refund sooner than the expiry date of the RCN, or you do not want an RCN, you should let your travel provider know. You should ask the company for a timeframe for when you should expect to receive the refund. ABTA can contact the company if they do not respond to you or if they refuse a refund entirely. Airlines are not Members of ABTA and not all travel agents and tour operators are either. Unfortunately, we are not able to help customers who have booked with a company that is not a Member of ABTA. You can find out if your tour operator or travel company is an ABTA Member using our search tool here. If you have an enquiry about a company that is not a member of ABTA please contact Citizens Advice.   I can’t get hold of my travel company – can you help?  Many travel businesses are operating in exceptionally difficult circumstances, with higher volumes of enquiries and often with fewer staff so they may take longer than normal to respond to your query.  Please check their website for their specific help and guidance and allow extra time for responding to queries.  If, after extra time you have made every effort to contact your travel company and still not heard back, and your query has become urgent, please contact ABTA and we will do what we can to assist. Do I need to pay the remaining balance for my upcoming holiday?  You do not have to pay the remaining balance for your holiday if you do not want to take it due to the ongoing uncertainty. However, if the remaining balance has not been paid the company is able to cancel the holiday due to non-payment and retain the deposit or other cancellation charges.  Remember that, if the booking has not already been cancelled, and is for a package holiday, you will be due a refund for that holiday if you have paid in full and if it is cancelled by your travel company because the FCO is advising against travel at the time of departure or because the services cannot be provided. Each company will have their own process for managing future departures and will be contacting customers due to travel imminently. Some travel companies are experiencing operational delays with collecting payments that are due, as a result of their staff working remotely or being furloughed or made redundant. If you’re unable to get through to pay your balance then please email the travel company and wait for their response – it is unlikely they will cancel the holiday if you have made attempts to pay.  I cancelled my holiday a few weeks ago as I was worried about travelling & had to pay cancellation charges. As the FCO is still advising against travel & the tour operator has now cancelled trips to the destination, can I get my cancellation charges back? No, if you choose to cancel the holiday before the tour operator cancels it as a result of FCO advice or for any other reason you will be liable to pay cancellation charges. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) currently advises against all non-essential overseas travel for British nationals. However this travel restriction can be removed at any time, so travel companies are doing their best to manage arrangements for customers. Each company will have their own process for managing future departures and will be contacting customers due to travel imminently. There is no legal definition of ‘imminent travel’, however it is generally considered to be within the next few weeks or days. Our advice to customers with future bookings is to be patient and wait to be contacted by your travel provider. Travel companies are extremely busy, given the pressures of the current crisis, and will be looking at imminent departures first and deciding how far in advance they will offer alternative arrangements or refunds. Refund Credit Notes (RCNs) What is a Refund Credit Note? (RCN) A Refund Credit Note (RCN) entitles you to rebook a holiday or receive a cash refund at a later date, up until the expiry date of the note. It also retains any financial protection that you may have had with your original booking.  If your original booking, for example a package holiday with flights, came with ATOL financial protection, the RCN will still provide this protection. If your original booking came with ABTA financial protection, for example a cruise holiday or other package holiday including rail or coach travel, the RCN will still provide this protection. A guide to Refund Credit Notes (RCNs): A Refund Credit Note entitles customers to rebook a holiday at a future date or receive a cash refund up until the expiry date of the note.  The expiry date on an RCN lets you know when that company’s financial protection runs out. If you wish to receive a refund before the expiry date, you should make this clear to your travel provider.  An RCN retains the financial protection that came with the original booking – for a flight-package this is ATOL, for a non-flight package this is likely to be ABTA.  Holiday vouchers are NOT the same as Refund Credit Notes and do not come with financial protection of ATOL or ABTA. RCNs only cover package holiday bookings. If an airline offers you a voucher for a cancelled flight, check the terms and conditions with the airline, it’s not the same as an RCN. What should a Refund Credit Note (RCN) look like? Refund Credit Notes (RCNs) may look different depending on your travel provider, but they should all comprise the following: An expiry date, which is the date to which your money is protected, and is based on your travel company’s financial protection arrangements. You are entitled to re-book or have a cash refund by this date at the latest (if your original booking was for a package holiday). The value of the RCN must be equal in value to the amount you paid for the original booking (or less any amount you have been given as a part refund).   The RCN must include the original booking details and reference. Additional information The RCN must not include any other amount offered as a rebooking incentive or other offer. Any such offers must be documented separately and are not covered by any scheme of financial protection. You should retain all previous booking documentation including booking confirmations, ATOL Certificates where appropriate and proofs of payment. Is a holiday voucher the same as a Refund Credit Note (RCN)? No. A holiday voucher is different to an RCN. Holiday vouchers, gift vouchers and other discount vouchers are not protected by the schemes of financial protection.  If I accept a Refund Credit Note (RCN), will I lose my right to a cash refund? No. A Refund Credit Note (RCN) preserves your right to a cash refund, which can be redeemed up until the expiry date of the note. If your original holiday was covered by a financial protection scheme (e.g. ATOL or ABTA), your Refund Credit Note (RCN) is financially protected by ATOL or ABTA (whichever covered your original booking) in the event your travel business fails. It is important that your Refund Credit Note (RCN) includes certain things, please see more detail on this there (see ‘What is a Refund Credit Note?’ above).  I have heard that the law relating to package holidays has changed. Is this correct? The laws relating to package holidays have not been changed as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, and they provide a number of protections for travellers. One of the protections is the right to a refund where a package holiday cannot continue as a result of unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances at the holiday destination. The law requires that this refund is provided within 14 days. Unfortunately, many travel companies cannot meet this period due to difficulties in recovering monies from suppliers and operational difficulties in the UK due to current lockdown restrictions. Our aim is to ensure that if travel companies ask their customers for more time to process a refund, they do this in a way that protects fundamental customer rights – in the case of a package holiday that means the right to a cash refund and financial protection. We also expect Members to refund customers as soon as they are able to. The details that we’ve set out for our Members on Refund Credit Notes (RCNs) are a way for us to guide our Members and hold them to account, through ABTA’s Code of Conduct.   The advice that we’ve developed for customers is to help you to understand what an RCN is, what detail you should look out for if you’re offered one and how it provides protection. This guidance, and the RCNs, do not override or remove your statutory rights but are intended to give a practical solution to a very real problem. If you do not wish to accept an RCN you are still entitled to a refund. The refund should be processed as soon as the company is able to. You should ask the company for a timeframe for when you should receive the refund. I’m experiencing genuine financial difficulties, is there anything I can do to get my money back sooner? We recognise the urgency of the situation and financial distress that customers may be experiencing. If you are experiencing particular hardship – for example, if you have been made redundant during the Covid-19 crisis and your travel insurance policy does not cover you for that risk, you can ask your travel company if they can prioritise your case.  A number of our Members have put in place special arrangements for such circumstances. If you find yourself in that situation, do ask your travel company how to apply for exceptional assistance and the evidence that would be required to help them to prioritise your case.  When can I redeem my Refund Credit Note (RCN) for another holiday or a cash refund? Your RCN should include an expiry date which is based on your travel company’s financial protection arrangements, or a date sooner than this.  Refunds can be requested at any time before the end date of the RCN. The refund should then be processed as soon as the company is able to do so. You should ask the company for a timeframe for when you should receive the refund. How is my money protected and why is it important? The majority of package travel arrangements provided by ABTA Members are protected by either the CAA’s ATOL scheme or by a bond taken out by the Member company. These schemes protect a refund that was due for a holiday that has not taken place if a travel company fails. ABTA is an independent organisation, recognised by the UK Department for Business (BEIS) as an Approved Body under the 2018 Package Travel Regulations. Some of our Members provide bonds through bonds held by one of the other two Approved Bodies – ABTOT or the CPT Bonded Coach Holidays schemes. Some Members also use financial failure insurance products rather than Bonds. These are also permitted under the 2018 Package Travel Regulations. Further information on the ATOL scheme can be found on the Civil Aviation Authority website. My travel company has extended the expiry date of my Refund Credit Note (RCN) – is this allowed? If the RCN has already been issued then both parties – you and your travel company – would need to agree to the RCN being reissued with a new expiry date. You do not have to agree to this if you don’t want to. My travel company has not refunded me but the supplier, such as an accommodation provider or airline, has given them a cash refund. Can I demand a refund? If you have proof that the specific supplier has refunded your travel company you should provide this to the company as part of your request for a refund. I was promised a refund initially, but the company says I now have to accept a Refund Credit Note (RCN)? If you were offered and accepted a refund this should be processed as soon as the company is able to. You should ask the company for a timeframe for when you should receive the refund. I am concerned that my travel provider isn’t following the rules for Refund Credit Notes (RCNs). What should I do? ABTA expects its Members to follow its rules for RCNs and, if necessary, we will carry out investigations under our Code of Conduct if they do not adhere to these rules.  If you have evidence that they are not following the above rules, in the first instance please contact our Customer Support team.  If your travel provider is not an ABTA Member you may wish to contact Citizens Advice or Trading Standards or the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) using their online form.  Questions on airlines and accommodation Should I contact ABTA if I’m having an issue getting a refund from my airline? Airlines are not Members of ABTA. If you booked your flight directly with an airline, you will need to contact the airline if you are having any issues with receiving a refund. Not all travel agents and tour operators are Members of ABTA. You can find out if your tour operator or travel company is an ABTA Member using our search tool here. If you have an enquiry about a company that is not a member of ABTA please contact Citizens Advice. I have an accommodation-only or flight-only booking – why is my travel company not offering a full refund? Accommodation-only or flight-only bookings are not covered by the Package Travel Regulations. This may mean that you are not entitled to a refund, so you should read the terms and conditions to establish your rights. Many companies that make accommodation-only or flight-only bookings are acting as an agent for the flight or accommodation provider. You might be able to contact the provider directly to obtain a refund, as this is ultimately who you have the contract with. If you are not happy with the situation, you should contact your travel company to establish if and, if so, when they will pay a refund. If you feel that you are being treated unfairly in respect of cancellation terms in the wake of Covid-19, your legal and statutory rights remain and you can report the matter to the Competition & Markets Authority using this online form. I have a booking for accommodation only in the UK. Where do I stand? If your accommodation is closed or can’t be provided, talk to your travel company about the terms and conditions that apply to your booking.  If it is still available and you decide not to go, look at the terms and conditions to see if you are entitled to any refund or released from any obligation to pay. My travel company is only offering me a partial refund for my package holiday and asking me to approach the airline for my flight refund? Is this ok? Many airlines are offering different options for cancelled flights such as amendments or future booking discounts which you might wish to accept. That will then form part of your refund for your package holiday. If you do not wish to accept those options the airline must give you a cash refund. If you encounter difficulties in getting the refund from the airline your travel company will be able to help you. If the booking is for a package holiday, you are entitled to a full refund for the monies you have paid for the package. 2. Current restrictions and future travel The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) currently advises against all non-essential overseas travel for British nationals. However this travel restriction can be removed at any time, so travel companies are doing their best to manage arrangements for customers. Each company will have their own process for managing future departures and will be contacting customers due to travel imminently. There is no legal definition of ‘imminent travel’, however it is generally considered to be within the next few weeks or days. Our advice to customers with future bookings is to be patient and wait to be contacted by your travel provider. Travel companies are extremely busy, given the pressures of the current crisis, and will be looking at imminent departures first and deciding how far in advance they will offer alternative arrangements or refunds.   British people who decide that they need to travel abroad immediately should be fully aware of the increased risks of doing so. That includes the risk that they may not be able to get home, if travel restrictions are put in place. For the latest updates please visit the Government’s dedicated coronavirus travel advice page. For full information relating to the coronavirus outbreak please visit the Government website, Public Health England and the TravelHealthPro website. What will the new Quarantine measures mean for my holiday? The Government plans to introduce a 14-day mandatory quarantine for travellers returning to the UK from 8 June, which will currently be reviewed every three weeks. Please see here for more information. As it stands today, the FCO advise against all but essential travel abroad, so any quarantine measures introduced while this advice remains will make little difference to the vast majority of holidaymakers whose holidays have been cancelled due to these restrictions. What happens if I have to travel whilst the non-essential advice is in place? British people who decide that they need to travel abroad immediately should be fully aware of the increased risks of doing so. That includes the risk that they may not be able to get home if travel restrictions are put in place. Anyone still considering travel needs to be realistic about the level of disruption they are willing and able to endure, and to make decisions in light of the unprecedented conditions we face. Anyone planning to travel should check the validity of their travel insurance. British nationals who need to travel are advised to read the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advice for the country they are travelling to, which includes entry requirements and a link through to the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) TravelHealthPro website that provides specific travel health advice for countries.  As a precautionary measure enhanced health screening procedures have been put in place at arrival and departure areas in many countries.  Many countries have also introduced entry restrictions for people travelling from certain countries, travellers are advised to read the FCO travel advice and sign up to email alerts for the country they are travelling to, as these are subject to change at short notice. What are my options for postponing a trip? As a result of the extraordinary situation and customer concerns over coronavirus, many travel companies and airlines are doing all they can to offer more flexible booking policies at this time, such as giving customers the option to change their travel date should they wish to postpone their holiday. In certain circumstances this may not be possible. Customers should please speak to their travel provider to discuss what their options may be. What should I do if I have a trip booked to a sports event and the event has been postponed or cancelled? This depends on how you booked your holiday and what the terms and conditions say. If the event has been postponed, you should please speak to your travel company about rearranging your trip once the new date has been confirmed.  If I cannot follow my initial travel plans due to the coronavirus outbreak, am I entitled to compensation? No, as the reason for the holiday not continuing is outside the control of the tour operator.  3. Advice to customers currently abroad Those currently in destination are advised by the Government to return to the UK now and should contact their travel company. They should also be aware that many destination authorities have introduced enhanced health measures including self-isolation procedures, and it is very important that travellers follow the public health advice relating to their local destination. Travellers should comply with these processes and take relevant preventative measures to reduce the risk of exposure. Travellers should also keep up to date on local advice.   Advice for ABTA Members, can be found here.

  • Specialist Leisure Group, plus communications and engagement during the crisis 

    Specialist Leisure Group, plus communications and engagement during the crisis  Full Page image dhewitt@abta.co.uk Thu, 05/28/2020 - 13:08 This week the impact of the crisis has been highlighted with Specialist Leisure Group going into administration and thousands of travel industry colleagues losing their jobs. Two of the Group companies, Shearings and Wallace Arnold, were Members of ABTA and much loved brands.  It saddens me particularly this has come to pass after many weeks warning the Government that businesses were at risk, and I fear that Specialist Leisure Group will not be the last firm to fall because of the situation we find ourselves in, if the Government fails to act.  ABTA has repeatedly highlighted to the Government the urgent need for a coordinated strategy with additional support and clear communication to help companies and avoid significant job losses. We will remain steadfast in this task and continue to support Members and customers through the crisis with communications of our own. This week, we reached over one million visits to the ‘Coronavirus advice for customers’ page on abta.com since the start of February. Providing information, context and guidance to Members’ customers has been a priority for ABTA during this crisis. As well as record levels of engagement online, we have also been providing help though our Customer Support Team and through huge volumes of media activity – nearly 3,000 interventions since the start of February including 70 national TV interviews, plus press releases and media statements.   Members meanwhile have access to our various communication channels that include Operational Bulletins, ABTA Today email bulletins and special editions, the Member Zone on abta.com, weekly Member conference calls and free to attend webinars. To make sure you are accessing the best resources to suit your needs please email engagement@abta.co.uk. Back in November I announced that Victoria Bacon, ABTA’s Director of Brand and Business Development, would be leaving in mid-March to focus on consultancy and advisory work alongside spending more time with family. Victoria has made an enormous contribution to ABTA over the last nine years as part of ABTA’s leadership team and I am personally grateful to her for staying with us longer to provide her expertise during this crisis. This though will be her last week at ABTA, and I would like to wish her the very best in the next stage of her career.  Mark Tanzer, Chief Executive

  • ABTA engagement reaches record levels during crisis

    ABTA engagement reaches record levels during crisis Full Page image dhewitt@abta.co.uk Thu, 05/28/2020 - 12:05 Today ABTA – The Travel Association releases new data which shows record levels of engagement with Members and consumers, indicating the extent to which the coronavirus pandemic has impacted the travel sector for individuals and for companies. During what has been an exceptionally challenging time for the industry and customers, ABTA has significantly increased its activity with the aim of ensuring both Members and their customers receive accurate information and guidance on various aspects of the crisis, including changes to FCO advice, repatriation information and refunds for cancelled holidays.  New figures show over one million views of the abta.com ‘Coronavirus advice for customers’ page since it went live at the start of February with an average dwell time of 8.5 minutes.   To keep up with demand for information among customers, ABTA has added additional resource to its Customer Support team which fields phone calls and emails from customers and continues to work remotely whilst the office remains closed. With a year-on-year increase of 175% in call volumes waiting times remain low.  ABTA has also been handling a record volume of media activity, managing thousands of media enquiries covering often difficult and complex subjects such as refund delays and financial protection arrangements. Since the start of the crisis, the Association has been involved in nearly 3,000 media interventions including interviews, statements and press releases. This includes over 70 national TV interviews including multiple interviews with BBC News, BBC Breakfast, Sky News, ITV News, Channel 4 and Channel 5. ABTA’s round the clock Operational Bulletins have kept Members informed of developments as they have unfolded during the crisis. In addition, ABTA has introduced weekly Conference Calls for its Members, issued regular ABTA Today email bulletins and video messages from its Chief Executive, Mark Tanzer. Since the start of March, ABTA’s weekly Conference Calls have had well over 2,000 attendees, with ABTA encouraging a representative from each Member to attend and submit questions in advance with recordings of the calls available to all. Online, ABTA’s Member-only advice hub has had over 8,000 views. The Association has also supported Members by introducing a programme of free webinars set up with ABTA Partners, which are an addition to other Partner services that ABTA provides. Nine webinars have been conducted so far, with 1570 Member registrations. To find out more and register visit: www.abta.com/events/webinars-on-demand.  Mark Tanzer, ABTA Chief Executive, says, “This has been an exceptionally difficult time for our Members and their customers. The industry has never experienced a crisis of this scale and severity, we’re continuing to do all we can to lobby political decision-makers for support. “We’re also putting enormous effort into keeping our Members and their customers informed about what is going on and ensuring they have the latest detailed and accurate information and guidance. The sheer speed and scale of developments has made this challenging, but that is our job as an Association and we will continue to do so while this crisis continues.” About ABTA ABTA has been a trusted travel brand for 70 years. Our purpose is to help our Members to grow their businesses successfully and sustainably, and to help their customers travel with confidence. The ABTA brand stands for support, protection and expertise. This means consumers have confidence in ABTA and a strong trust in ABTA Members. These qualities are core to us as they ensure that holidaymakers remain confident in the holiday products that they buy from our Members. We help our Members and their customers navigate through today's changing travel landscape by raising standards in the industry; offering schemes of financial protection; providing an independent complaints resolution service should something go wrong; giving guidance on issues from sustainability to health and safety and by presenting a united voice to government to ensure the industry and the public get a fair deal. ABTA has more than 4,300 travel brands in Membership, providing a wide range of leisure and business travel services, with a combined annual UK turnover of £39 billion. For more details about what we do, what being an ABTA Member means and how we help the British public travel with confidence visit www.abta.com.  

  • Specialist Leisure Group Limited ceases trading – advice for customers

    Specialist Leisure Group Limited ceases trading – advice for customers Full Page image dhewitt@abta.co.uk Tue, 05/26/2020 - 10:17 Updated 26 May Information for customers with a booking with one of the Specialist Leisure Group Limited companies We are sorry to inform you that, Specialist Leisure Group Limited has ceased trading and has been placed into Administration with effect from 22 May 2020. Specialist Leisure Group Limited operated several businesses that sold holidays and other travel arrangements: Wallace Arnold Travel Limited Shearings Holidays Limited UK Breakaways Limited National Holidays Limited trading as Caledonian Travel and Travel Style Shearings Hotels trading as Bay Hotels and Coast and Country Hotels ABTA Members Two companies in the Group were ABTA Members: Shearings Holidays Limited: ABTA number V6468 & ATOL number 1666. Wallace Arnold Travel Limited: ABTA number C6957. Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) members Two companies in the Group were members of the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) – Bonded Coach Holidays (BCH) Scheme: National Holidays Limited trading as Caledonian Travel and Travel Style UK Breakaways Limited. Holidays that did not have financial protection The Group also had two hotels which were not Members of ABTA or CPT and where the holiday bookings were not financially protected. Shearings Hotels Limited trading as Bay Hotels and Coast and Country Hotels. Following this announcement, customers may understandably be very worried. Our immediate aim is to help customers to understand what steps they need to take if they have future travel arrangements booked with the company.  It is very important that customers read and follow the advice below.     The vast majority of customers arrangements are covered through different types of financial protection, these include:   1. Holidays booked through Wallace Arnold Travel Limited Any booking you have made through Wallace Arnold Travel Limited will be with a travel provider. If the travel provider was a travel organiser within the Specialist Holidays Group named above, follow the instructions for that company If the travel provider was a third-party travel organiser, your travel arrangements should be unaffected. Please contact the travel provider concerned.  Your booking confirmation paperwork will tell you who your holiday arrangements are with. 2. Coach holiday packages If you have booked a coach holiday package, the majority of these are financially protected by the Confederation of Passenger Transport, Bonded Coach Holidays Scheme or by your credit or debit card issuer. 3. Flight package holidays If you have a booked a flight inclusive package holiday, this is protected by the CAA ATOL scheme.    Next steps As there are a number of different companies involved – and different types of financial protection arrangements – what customers should do next will depend on who you have booked with; and what type of holiday you have booked.   We have developed specific guidance for each company, which is outlined in detail on the following web pages.   A summary of next steps is provided immediately below, with more detail on the links below. Coronavirus impact Due to the current Covid-19 crisis we do not expect there to be any customers currently on holiday with any of the companies in the Group.   Customers who are awaiting a refund due to the COVID-19 crisis or who have received a Refund Credit Note, should follow the advice detailed below depending on which company you had your booking with. To enable us to help you and provide the most accurate information on what you need to do, please read the following information. Please click on the company that you have booked with from the list below, which will take you to the specific advice on what you will need to do next.  Wallace Arnold Travel Limited Shearings Holidays Limited UK Breakaways Limited National Holidays Limited trading as Caledonian Travel and Travel Style Shearings Hotels trading as Bay Hotels and Coast and Country Hotels  

  • Specialist Leisure Group which includes leading coach companies Shearings and National Holidays goes into administration with thousands of job losses and cancelled bookings

    Specialist Leisure Group which includes leading coach companies Shearings and National Holidays goes into administration with thousands of job losses and cancelled bookings Full Page image dhewitt@abta.co.uk Fri, 05/22/2020 - 13:32 Travel company Specialist Leisure Group Ltd, which includes two of the country’s best loved coach companies, Shearings and National Holidays, has today gone into administration leading to tens of thousands of customers’ holidays being cancelled and more than 2,500 job losses.* Two of the Group companies, Shearings and Wallace Arnold, were members of ABTA while National Holidays and UK Breakaways were members of the Confederation of Passenger Transport.  The Group had over 64,000 bookings, the vast majority of which were coach package holidays. All package holiday bookings are financially protected so customers with these bookings will receive a full refund, with coach packages protected by the Confederation of Passenger Transport. Shearings also offered a small number of flight package holidays which are ATOL protected and will be processed by the CAA.   The collapse of such well-established and well-loved travel brands will come as a shock to many.  Shearings had been providing holidays to the UK public for over 100 years with its roots traced back to 1903. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is believed to be the main reason behind the collapse of the Group, as it struggled to provide thousands of refunds for cancelled holidays while new bookings ground to a halt. The Group contained five companies in total that sold holidays and other travel arrangements: Shearings Holidays Limited Wallace Arnold Travel Limited National Holidays Ltd trading as Caledonian Travel and Travel Style UK Breakaways Limited Shearings Hotels Ltd trading as Bay Hotels and Coast and Country Hotels. Wallace Arnold Travel Ltd acted as an agent for other suppliers, these bookings will go ahead as normal except where the bookings have been made with other companies within the Specialist Leisure Group. The group also owned two hotels brands within Shearings Hotels Limited trading as Bay Hotels and Coast and Country Hotels. Customers with forward bookings for Shearings Holidays, National Holidays trading as Caledonian and Travel Style, UK Breakaways and Shearings Hotels trading as Bay Hotels and Coach and Country Hotels should go to www.specialistleisuregroup.com and follow the instructions on how to progress a claim. For customers with an ATOL certificate, customers should go to https://www.caa.co.uk/ATOL-protection/Make-an-ATOL-claim/Latest-ATOL-holder-failures to start the refund process. John de Vial ABTA Director of Membership and Financial Services said: “The Specialist Leisure Group included two of the UK’s best known coach holiday brands, Shearings and National Holidays, two much loved holiday companies who for many years have provided holidays both at home and overseas to a very loyal group of customers. “Today is a very sad day for these customers and the thousands of staff who will have lost their jobs. “The fact that two such well-known brands with a loyal customer base have had to call in administrators is a stark indication of the pressure that the holiday industry is under as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. ABTA has repeatedly highlighted to the Government the urgency of the situation and the need to set out a coordinated strategy with clearer communication if it wants to help avoid significant job losses and support companies to weather the storm.”   Notes to editors The Confederation for Passenger Transport is a trade association whose members specialise in coach trips. It is an Approved Body under the Package Travel Regulations, approved by BEIS to provide financial protection for package holidays. The CPT is responsible for the provision and processing of refunds, following the failure of any of its Members under the Bonded Coach Holidays scheme. *The SLG employed 2,600 staff across the group. ABTA Members Shearings and Wallace Arnold Ltd employed staff at offices in Wigan, Leeds, Chesterfield and a number at other retail locations predominantly in Yorkshire, Cheshire and Derbyshire. ABTA has been a trusted travel brand for 70 years. Our purpose is to help our Members to grow their businesses successfully and sustainably, and to help their customers travel with confidence. The ABTA brand stands for support, protection and expertise. This means consumers have confidence in ABTA and a strong trust in ABTA Members. These qualities are core to us as they ensure that holidaymakers remain confident in the holiday products that they buy from our Members. We help our Members and their customers navigate through today's changing travel landscape by raising standards in the industry; offering schemes of financial protection; providing an independent complaints resolution service should something go wrong; giving guidance on issues from sustainability to health and safety and by presenting a united voice to government to ensure the industry and the public get a fair deal. ABTA has more than 4,300 travel brands in Membership, providing a wide range of leisure and business travel services, with a combined annual UK turnover of £39 billion. For more details about what we do, what being an ABTA Member means and how we help the British public travel with confidence visit www.abta.com.

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