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I was involved many years ago as professional adviser to travel businesses, but am now purely a customer currently pursuing a refund from a tour operator. As Chris J has said the customer does not care about the money chain, only that their money is safe and readily refundable if need be.
It is not acceptable for businesses to live off pre-payments made by customers for specific services to be provided by 3rd parties. In other businesses this would be considered criminal.
The only solution is for customers' pre-payments to be lodged in a separate trust account until the day of departure for the booked trip.
Agents do provide a genuine service to customers. Good agents should not have a problem in charging customers a service fee for the value they add to the products they sell.
As a customer I really have no interest in the so called money chain, I just want people and companies to honour the contract I've entered into with them. I don't want excuses about how difficult it is to give me a refund, I don't want to know you'll go out of business if you honour the contract, I don't want to know that you haven't eaten for a week, I don't want to know how difficult another company is being - if you'd said I have x y z protection then I expect to benefit from just that.
Great comment Chris - sums up the mood of customers precisely. And today's - burned - customers are tomorrow's staycationers until a new system that we can trust is put in place. And that might cost us a few pounds more than it does now. But better that the situation where ABTA and TTA sought to leave customers high and dry "to ensure we have a travel industry in the future" through worthless credit notes.