Families face shocking rise in holiday costs as charges soar by hundreds of pounds

16.6.2008   (Daily Mail)

Thousands of families are being hit by shock demands to pay more for their holidays.

A growing number of tour operators are imposing surcharges of as much as 10 per
cent, blaming soaring fuel costs and the sliding value of the pound.

Even holidaymakers who booked – and paid – as long ago as last year are having
to pay extra.

One £6,000 holiday for a family of four has soared by £600. There are fears that
some families, whose budgets are already being squeezed by a range of rising prices,
could be pushed into debt by a holiday they expected to be a break from their

The stronger euro has already pushed up the cost of a break abroad.   Experts
say it has added 17 per cent to things such as hiring a car and buying a meal.

The power to demand a surcharge is buried in the small print of many holiday
contracts and is separate from the fuel supplements being imposed by airlines.

Firms can ask for up to 10 per cent of the original holiday cost.

The biggest levy so far had been on trips to Iceland and Sicily with Cox &
Kings Travel. A family of four now has to pay an extra £600 on their £6,000 holiday.

The surcharges, which must be approved by the Association of British Travel Agents,
the industry regulator, have so far been limited to smaller operators.

Families who have waited until the last minute to book a break also face having
to pay up to 10 per cent more than the brochure price.


Sterling has fallen by 14 per cent against the euro since last summer, exposing
operators to huge increases in costs when they have to pay the hotels they use.

Holidays outside Europe also face currency-related surcharges because travel
companies tend to pay one another in euros.

Cox & Kings said it had booked its trips in euros months in advance and was
now facing a loss.

Larger travel companies, such as Thomson and First Choice have so far avoided
surcharges. But higher airline fuel costs have seen both firms charge a supplement
of up to £40 per person.

Companies are allowed to surcharge only if they absorb the first 2% of any rise
in costs.

They cannot charge more then 10% without offering customers a full refund and
cannot raise the cost within 30 days of departure.

But Marc Gander, co-founder of Consumer Action Group, called for greater transparency.

He said: ‘To charge a family another ten per cent two months after they have
booked is not acceptable.

‘It is not enough to blame the euro, tour operators should have to provide a
breakdown of how their costs have risen. That way, holidaymakers can see if there
is any profit element.’

ABTA spokesman Sean Tipton said: ‘Surcharges are a last resort for operators
but without them many smaller specialist companies would go out of business.’

Holidaymakers travelling to Spain, Morocco, Egypt, Sardinia, the Arctic Circle
and Jordan are among those affected by the new charges. ABTA has also approved
surcharges for a number of cruise ship operators, camping and caravanning and
golf package firms.

Late-notice surcharges were common during the currency crisis of the 1970s, but
have been little used since. Last year just one company applied for permission
to surcharge.

Even if the pound suddenly recovers, the surcharges are unlikely to be refunded.
ABTA rules do not make firms give a rebate, although some may do so voluntarily.

Families face shock rise in holiday bills as surcharges soar by hundreds of pounds