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COVID Covid and booked tours

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Another thread has covered in good detail how the refund process works with airline reservations. Thanks to tips there, I have gotten refunds for several cancelled flights and vouchers for those that I cancelled. But my question has to do with tours.

My husband was going to take a trip to Egypt with a friend while I was walking this summer. He was going on an organized tour, a first for us, so I am navigating the unknown. The trip was cancelled, no surprise there. But what has been surprising is what happens next. The company has automatically booked him and his friend on a similar trip next May. Foolishly, I had assumed that tour companies were subject to the same legal regime as airlines, and that if they cancelled the trip, a refund would be in order. That is not the case.

Nor is it the case that our “cancel for any reason” trip insurance for this trip will entitle us to a refund. There is a difference between “specified reasons” (refund available) and “other reasons” (voucher available). Pandemics are not a “specified reason,” which I already knew.

So we really have very little wiggle room here — the only realistic option seems to be to let them keep our money for a year and hope that the trip goes next year. Our existing “cancel for any reason” travel insurance has been rolled over to cover the rescheduled trip and will entitle him to a refund if he cannot go next year because of health reasons, so I guess we are pretty well covered. I am doubtful that the trip will go next year, or that his doctor will authorize him to go next year if there is no vaccine. I have learned that some tour companies have bent to public pressure and offer partial refunds if the traveler is willing to give up 20-30% of the paid price, and that seems like a more fair way to go. I totally understand that it is unrealistic to think these companies can provide total refunds for all of their booked business, so I’m wondering what all the Camino tour companies are doing.

Buen camino, Laurie
 

crackmrmac

Veteran Member
Hi Laurie, it’s a strange time indeed. Can’t help you with legalities. Your husband’s trip cancelled or deferred ?, paying in advance and having travel insurance we assume all bases are covered. That’s the way I work. Here in Ireland I know people with bookings for group tours to Asia and were told no refunds allowed but can avail of same tour next March/April. As regards Camino I don’t think it’s an option this year😣

Buen Camino.
 
D

Deleted member 67185

Guest
Another thread has covered in good detail how the refund process works with airline reservations. Thanks to tips there, I have gotten refunds for several cancelled flights and vouchers for those that I cancelled. But my question has to do with tours.

My husband was going to take a trip to Egypt with a friend while I was walking this summer. He was going on an organized tour, a first for us, so I am navigating the unknown. The trip was cancelled, no surprise there. But what has been surprising is what happens next. The company has automatically booked him and his friend on a similar trip next May. Foolishly, I had assumed that tour companies were subject to the same legal regime as airlines, and that if they cancelled the trip, a refund would be in order. That is not the case.

Nor is it the case that our “cancel for any reason” trip insurance for this trip will entitle us to a refund. There is a difference between “specified reasons” (refund available) and “other reasons” (voucher available). Pandemics are not a “specified reason,” which I already knew.

So we really have very little wiggle room here — the only realistic option seems to be to let them keep our money for a year and hope that the trip goes next year. Our existing “cancel for any reason” travel insurance has been rolled over to cover the rescheduled trip and will entitle him to a refund if he cannot go next year because of health reasons, so I guess we are pretty well covered. I am doubtful that the trip will go next year, or that his doctor will authorize him to go next year if there is no vaccine. I have learned that some tour companies have bent to public pressure and offer partial refunds if the traveler is willing to give up 20-30% of the paid price, and that seems like a more fair way to go. I totally understand that it is unrealistic to think these companies can provide total refunds for all of their booked business, so I’m wondering what all the Camino tour companies are doing.

Buen camino, Laurie

Sorry to hear this, Laurie. A possibility to pursue, IF you paid with a credit card, is to dispute the charge to the tour company based on no-performance for your scheduled and promised tour date. You purchased for a specified start time, not for an open-ended 'whenever it happens' time-frame.

The next thing I would do, is to contact your State's Attorney General's Office of Consumer Affairs (that what its called in Washington State, anyway). Make a consumer complaint with the State.

Then I would contact your Better Business Bureau and submit a complaint.

PRIOR to all of that, though, I would contact that tour company and inform them of what you will be taking as your next steps IF they do not fully refund your money. It actually takes very little effort to do the three things I mentioned, so if the tour company does not comply, you have some recourse to try.
 
Camino(s) past & future
cycled from Pamplona Sep 2015;Frances, walked from St Jean May/June 2017. Plans to walk Porto 2020
Hola Laurie - thanks for this post. The sentence about "I am doubtful that the trip will go next year, or that his doctor will authorize him to go next year if there is no vaccine. "; is very applicable to myself, given my current condition. My brother and I originally booked for May then our travel agent (trying to do the best for us and (I expect) still keep the airline kickback) moved us to Sept dates (we had briefly discussed this change). My travel insurance was only for the original dates - I will check if it can be rolled over. Many thanks. M
 
D

Deleted member 67185

Guest
Hola Laurie - thanks for this post. The sentence about "I am doubtful that the trip will go next year, or that his doctor will authorize him to go next year if there is no vaccine. "; is very applicable to myself, given my current condition. My brother and I originally booked for May then our travel agent (trying to do the best for us and (I expect) still keep the airline kickback) moved us to Sept dates (we had briefly discussed this change). My travel insurance was only for the original dates - I will check if it can be rolled over. Many thanks. M

Mike, Laurie was talking about a tour, not a travel agent, so you should have recourse to get your tickets refunded or changed as you wish. Travel agencies are acting on your behalf to purchase tickets for you, so you are still a customer of an airline.

If this were third party ticket broker, like Expedia or Travelocity, then your situation would be different. But your travel agent should be able to issue a refund or a rollover to a different date at your discretion.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Short update, I went to the many pages of “terms and conditions”, which we always click on without reading. :D So now I have read them.

Most directly applicable is the provision in which the company reserves the right to cancel at any time and says that the traveler’s only remedy is a refund. Hmmm, seems like that’s what I m asking for!

The travel company says they have not cancelled, they have just postponed the trip. Nice try. There is nothing in the terms and conditions that allows them to do that unilaterally, and that means that postponing for a year would be a unilateral modification of a contract — invalid for lack of consideration.

I understand that these are crazy times, and until I read the terms and conditions, I was thinking that I would be willing to cut some kind of deal with them. But I have to say that I lost a lot of sympathy for the company after reading the terms and conditions I DID agree to — every waiver of liability you can possibly imagine.

I am now waiting for a call from a “supervisor,“ which may be as many as 10 days in the future. To be continued.....
 
D

Deleted member 67185

Guest
Short update, I went to the many pages of “terms and conditions”, which we always click on without reading. :D So now I have read them.

Most directly applicable is the provision in which the company reserves the right to cancel at any time and says that the traveler’s only remedy is a refund. Hmmm, seems like that’s what I m asking for!

The travel company says they have not cancelled, they have just postponed the trip. Nice try. There is nothing in the terms and conditions that allows them to do that unilaterally, and that means that postponing for a year would be a unilateral modification of a contract — invalid for lack of consideration.

I understand that these are crazy times, and until I read the terms and conditions, I was thinking that I would be willing to cut some kind of deal with them. But I have to say that I lost a lot of sympathy for the company after reading the terms and conditions I DID agree to — every waiver of liability you can possibly imagine.

I am now waiting for a call from a “supervisor,“ which may be as many as 10 days in the future. To be continued.....

They are hoping that some customers will simply accept what they offer as a method to stem lost revenue. Stick to your guns, Laurie :)
 

Bob from L.A. !

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francis 2012, 2014, 2016. Camino Norte 2018. Many more to come in my future God willing !
Please keep us all updated on the chain of events as I believe many of us might be up against the same issues in the months to come.

Thank you
 
Camino(s) past & future
(2015) Frances
(2018) Portuguese
(2019) VdP Seville to Salamanca
(2020) VdP Salamanca to Santiago
I'd echo some of the other thoughts. When a tour company books you and cancels, they will try to first reschedule you on a later date. They view that as a "convenience (which in this pandemic is some what of a joke) but that is the "standard practice". Many will offer a refund when asked but you have to ask. The other point that no one has mentioned is that you have to be very careful on dates as we go forward. When you reach the point where you have to send in the money (normally 90 days before travel), is the time to really examine in a harsh light what the odds of you traveling are. If the virus is still active 90 days before you travel, it's pretty simple. Don't travel. Keep you money and try again later. We tend to be optimistic and think it will get better which is good but perhaps not that realistic. We've all bought so much online that we tend to click past the T's & C's and that should never be the practice when tour companies are involved.

One other point, credit card companies will issue a credit only if they feel that fraud was involved. A dispute over the T's&C's would normally not trigger a refund Worth trying, but your odds are low that this will work. The best bet is to talk to the company (no matter how long it takes). And, remember that they are probably short staffed and have taken the action that is in their best view and least effort. They are not being evil. They are just as stressed as you arel
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Like you, John, I doubt that the CC company will take this up. Normally, you have 60 days to dispute a charge. We paid a deposit in September and the balance in January.

I totally agree that this is extremely stressful for business and potentially devastating. But if you read the terms and conditions carefully, it is hard to come away with the conclusion that they are not being evil.

This provision for starters:

The responsibility of Company in connection with your tour is strictly limited. Company makes no warranty, either express or implied, regarding the suitability, safety, insurance or other aspects of any Supplier and any transportation, tours, services, products or facilities provided by Suppliers. We are not liable for any claim for loss, damage, injury, death, misrepresentation, delay, inconvenience or disappointment, arising from any action by a Supplier, including but not limited to any negligent or willful act or failure to act of any Supplier or of any other third party. We will not be liable to you for any claim unless the occurrence was due to our own gross negligence or willful fault. You agree that in no event shall we be liable in any claim for other than compensatory damages, including but not limited to any indirect, consequential, punitive special or exemplary, or incidental damages, however caused, and whether sought in contract, tort or under any other theory of liability, and regardless of whether we have been advised of the possibility of such damages. Notwithstanding the foregoing, Operator’s liability for compensatory damages hereunder shall in no event exceed the amount actually paid by you to Operator for the trip giving rise to the claim. The foregoing limitation of liability shall not apply to liability for death or personal injury to the extent applicable law prohibits such limitation.


In other provisions, they tell you they can do essentially anything they want and have no responsibility to perform the agreement as written.

I know some of these waivers are likely to be unenforceable, but I have no doubt that if the shoe were on the other foot and the consumer was the one who had the financial crisis, there would be no mercy shown.
 
Camino(s) past & future
(2015) Frances
(2018) Portuguese
(2019) VdP Seville to Salamanca
(2020) VdP Salamanca to Santiago
Yep, maybe not evil per se but they sure know how to avoid responsibility. The clause you included should probably be rewritten so that people can understand it:

"We, as the group that sold you the tour, take no responsibility for the tour to actually happen. Since we don't actually do anything except take your money and pass it on to others, we have no responsibility to you at all. Even thought we said how good it was going to be and how well it fits your needs, you can't hold us to anything we said."

Unfortunately, most business include some form of this liability limitation in any agreement. This one is particularly strung out but I think their lawyer did a good job. At least, on the bright side, people may be a bit more knowledgeable when they book anything in the future. I work with another Camino provisioning group and figured out that to do what they do on a 50 day walk they must work with at least 80+ suppliers, lodging, transport, and middle men. Truly a nightmare for the consumer when something goes really really wrong.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Us:Camino Frances, 2015 Me:Catalan/Aragonese, 2019
I think the company is thinking of itself as a facilitator. It arranges to book rooms, etc. in your name and takes some money for themselves for their trouble. Whereas other companies book in their name and then fill in the slots with customers.
 

Bob from L.A. !

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francis 2012, 2014, 2016. Camino Norte 2018. Many more to come in my future God willing !
A little while ago I received a text from Expedia telling me they are aware that I would possibly be interested in canceling my September reservations and if so, I can do so before April 30th. and United will provide me a credit for the costs of my flight. It did not provide me with any details, but I will be calling them tomorrow to ascertain what their offer entails. Has anyone else received a similar message from Expedia???? Any information would be appreciated.
 

DyanTX

DyanTX
Camino(s) past & future
CF Sept 22 - Nov 3, 2016
I am scheduled for a tour in AK in June. So far, the company has not cancelled so I'm waiting. They did cancelled all of their tours for March-May. Their offer was initially to allow a reschedule within 18 months. They have sweetened the deal by allowing reschedule within 3 years with an additional credit added. This was to be my first ever tour so we shall see if it is also my last!
 

TrueEarl

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino de Madrid 2021
Like you, John, I doubt that the CC company will take this up. Normally, you have 60 days to dispute a charge. We paid a deposit in September and the balance in January.

I totally agree that this is extremely stressful for business and potentially devastating. But if you read the terms and conditions carefully, it is hard to come away with the conclusion that they are not being evil.

This provision for starters:

The responsibility of Company in connection with your tour is strictly limited. Company makes no warranty, either express or implied, regarding the suitability, safety, insurance or other aspects of any Supplier and any transportation, tours, services, products or facilities provided by Suppliers. We are not liable for any claim for loss, damage, injury, death, misrepresentation, delay, inconvenience or disappointment, arising from any action by a Supplier, including but not limited to any negligent or willful act or failure to act of any Supplier or of any other third party. We will not be liable to you for any claim unless the occurrence was due to our own gross negligence or willful fault. You agree that in no event shall we be liable in any claim for other than compensatory damages, including but not limited to any indirect, consequential, punitive special or exemplary, or incidental damages, however caused, and whether sought in contract, tort or under any other theory of liability, and regardless of whether we have been advised of the possibility of such damages. Notwithstanding the foregoing, Operator’s liability for compensatory damages hereunder shall in no event exceed the amount actually paid by you to Operator for the trip giving rise to the claim. The foregoing limitation of liability shall not apply to liability for death or personal injury to the extent applicable law prohibits such limitation.

In other provisions, they tell you they can do essentially anything they want and have no responsibility to perform the agreement as written.

I know some of these waivers are likely to be unenforceable, but I have no doubt that if the shoe were on the other foot and the consumer was the one who had the financial crisis, there would be no mercy shown.
nice post!
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
I got a call back from the supervisor who just reiterated the company line and told me I had the option of arbitration in Boston If I didn’t agree with their proposed “postponement” of my husband’s trip till May 2021. o_OWell, I have now had the time to read the fine print more carefully, and I sadly concluded that the “force majeure” clause legitimizes their decisions. I will bet that all tour companies include some escape valve like this, though I am sure they never imagined that a pandemic would essentially torpedo their business.

So I think that anyone with a booked group tour, at least if it’s a company with a good legal department, is going to be on the hook and at the mercy of whatever the company decides to do. And I think that means we all just keep our fingers crossed that they do not go bankrupt before they are up and running again.

Today’s news that Norwegian Cruise Line is fiiling for bankruptcy did not give me the sense that the trajectory here is positive.
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
So wait.
The pandemic constitutes a “force majeure” that allows the tour company to do whatever they want with your money including not giving it back to you?
Fair enough.
But it's only fair if that means the same logic can be applied in the other direction. In other words, if because of the pandemic, does that mean we little guys can stiff the company with impunity?
Of course not — it's a stacked deck. And the company holds all the damn cards.

On top of everything else, this just plain sucks. So you have my sympathy Laurie, and I hope you eventually get some refund from this.
 
Camino(s) past & future
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
I have now had the time to read the fine print more carefully, and I sadly concluded that the “force majeure” clause legitimizes their decisions.
Wow, I am not a lawyer but that still surprises me. I understand that all sorts of things can happen that forces changes to a tour and that there is no liability on the side of the tour operator for these changes but here it concerns the dates of the tour and a very fundamental change of these dates. It's like when you buy any consumer good like a fridge in the belief that it will be delivered in say May this year and then, after having paid for it in full, you are told it will be delivered in May next year and you have no recourse.

If I ever book a trip again with a tour operator in future - I've travelled with numerous tour operators in the past who are not located in my country of residence - I will look very carefully at their place of jurisdiction!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Us:Camino Frances, 2015 Me:Catalan/Aragonese, 2019
If I ever book a trip again with a tour operator in future - I've travelled with numerous tour operators in the past who are not located in my country of residence - I will look very carefully at their place of jurisdiction!
In the US you have to also look at the state of jurisdiction. South Dakota and Delaware have laws that lean so heavily in favor of corporate interests that banks and such incorporate there though they are run from other places.
 

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