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It is a rare occasion that a travel company you’ve booked a package with goes bust – but that’s exactly what happened to Kay and Ken Dollery.

The northern NSW couple booked a $37,000 “Grand Indian Ocean” package, which includes flights, cruise and hotel through Cruise Traveller with the All Leisure Group, but when they received an email from the travel agency saying the UK based company had gone bankrupt, they thought it was all over.

But today, they are confident their dream holiday costs could be fully refunded thanks to industry schemes that protect most travellers.

So what rights do you have as a consumer?

There are a number of tips for holiday-makers to make sure that they don’t end up in a sticky situation like this.

ATAS accredited agents have the power to act on your behalf as your personal travel advocate. If your flight is delayed or cancelled, if you need to reschedule, if a supplier ceases to trade, or a natural disaster or personal accident occurs, the agent can provide support and assistance and will do their best to help sort the situation out.

Buying travel does mean that consumers should use a “Buyers beware” approach and several factors are worth considering; make sure you book with an ATAS travel agent, use a credit card as this may enable you to get a chargeback from the bank if something goes wrong, and look for insurance that covers you when a supplier collapses like in this case.

But if you’re booking with an international agent, it’s vital to check what kind of compensation or protection you are entitled to.

For example in the UK and Canada there are consumer protection schemes which may be able to assist in situations like the All Leisure Group collapse but this must be checked as each circumstance can be different.

Unfortunately, most travel insurance policies do not provide protection in situations like these so these are the few hard and fast rules to follow by and it is always worth checking if this type of cover is included in your travel insurance policy.

Mrs Dollery told Cruise Passenger she had not heard an update from her travel agency, Cruise Traveller, who books holidays on cruise lines like Seabourn, Ponant, Variety Cruises, Pandaw, Oceania and more.

“We’re still waiting for an update and we’re getting impatient. I feel like a mushroom – I’ve been left in the dark. But I did speak to another passenger who had booked her holiday through CruiseAbout and she has received a full refund,” she said.

“Ken and I cruise a lot but this was the holiday of our dreams – this was the big one. We have never done a cruise or holiday of this length and we have been saving up for this for a long time. Now, I just hope we can get our money back.”

So just to recap, here are the top tips

  1. Make sure the company you book through is an Australia listed business and has an ABN – you have more rights to be able to argue your case if the company goes bust and access to Australian law.
  2. Use an ATAS Accredited Travel Agent, this ensures you are dealing with an Australian company and that they comply with the industry standards.
  3. Use your credit card – chargeback options may be able to resolve the situation in some circumstances if things are not provided as they have been agreed.
  4. By travel insurance that includes cover for supplier collapse.
  5. If you’ve decided to book with an international agent or company, find out what compensation is available. For example, in the UK, ATOL which is run by the UK Civil Aviation Authority will protect you if you’ve booked a holiday package with flights included.