Following the release of new findings, schools are now being urged to book trips with an Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) approved travel company to ensure support, protection and expertise.
Many schools are not aware that by organising a trip themselves, and by arranging their own bookings for transport, accommodation and other services, they may be making themselves liable under the Package Travel Regulations (PTRs).
In short, this means that they would have all of the responsibilities of a travel company, both legal and financial.
Further information for teachers
The findings have revealed that nearly three quarters of UK families expect a company that organises school travel to be an ABTA Member.
ABTA approved travel companies have access to the travel association’s support and expertise, including a 24 hour crisis support. Schools can also benefit from ABTA’s advice and its independent complaints process, should they need it.
There are currently more than 100 school travel organisers who are ABTA members, with all School Travel Forum members, which is another professional trade association for school travel, required to be ABTA members too.
Under the PTRs, the travel company is responsible for dealing with any problems, and making sure that an alternative or a full refund is offered if the trip cannot go ahead for any reason. In addition, if the travel company goes out of business before the trip begins, the pupils will get their money back. Equally, if the trip has already begun, and transport was included, the PTRs also ensure that participants will be brought back home at no additional cost.
Thoughts on the new regulations
Victoria Bacon, ABTA’s director of brand and business development, said: “School trips provide pupils with lifelong memories and often an opportunity to explore a place they’ve never been to before. However, it can be a time consuming and sometimes daunting process for teachers to arrange these trips, and the new Package Travel Regulations means that if a trip is booked in a certain way, the school could be held liable should there be a problem.
“There are lots of ABTA school travel specialist companies who can take these responsibilities off the hands of teachers and pull together a trip which provides a great education experience as well as offering the support, protection and expertise that comes with booking with an ABTA approved travel company.”
Gill Harvey of the School Travel Forum, added: “While organising a school trip can be seen by some education providers as stressful and time consuming, there are ways to streamline the process and recruit third party help to ensure the trip runs smoothly.
“Research shows that travel helps children to develop their sense of independence, experience new cultures and bond with their classmates. Booking with an STF Member, which is also an ABTA Member, will provide teachers and parents alike with the confidence of a safe and successful trip.”
ABTA’s top tips for schools arranging a trip
• Reassure parents with careful planning and clear communication throughout the trip, from the point of booking to the moment of return.
• Check the Foreign Commonwealth Office Travel Advice for the country you intend to visit at an early stage of planning for the trip, as well as closer to the departure date. The advice can be found at: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice
• Ensure that all those travelling have adequate travel insurance. Check that any specific or unusual activities are covered.
• Check passport and visa requirements well in advance. Ensure that everyone has a valid passport and that they have enough time left on them before they expire. Some countries require a minimum of six months’ time prior to expiry.
• Ask to see your chosen tour operator’s health and safety credentials and check they acknowledge the importance of maintaining these standards throughout the trip.
• Book arrangements with an ABTA Member to benefit from the protection, support and expertise they provide
For more information on PTRs, visit www.abta.com/tips-and-advice/is-my-holiday-protected/new-package-travel-regulations.