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Holidaying in the time of COVID-19

As the summer months approach and with the COVID-19 pandemic still very much on the radar, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is urging holiday makers to double check terms and conditions when making holiday bookings.

Commissioner for Fair Trading, Victoria Thomson said that while we can’t travel freely interstate or overseas for the upcoming long weekends or school holidays, Queensland has so many wonderful attractions and landscapes to discover.

“Queensland is in an enviable position thanks to the way we have restricted the spread of COVID-19 in our community. However, the OFT advises that people need to consider the potential impacts of sudden restrictions or lockdowns when booking for a holiday,” Ms Thomson said.

“Unfortunately, the OFT has received 1881 complaints about travel and holiday matters already this year - surpassing 1569 complaints received in 2020, and a massive increase on the 692 received in 2019.

“This includes a recent complaint from a Bundaberg man who’d booked a trip away to the Gold Coast before Queensland’s most recent lockdown.

“He had made the arrangements using a boutique third-party online accommodation website, and when the lockdown and travel restrictions were extended, he and his family were unable to travel.

“The accommodation provider itself, under the Queensland Health directive, were still able to accept guests and so the third-party booking website upheld their cancellation policy regarding changes to bookings.

“Unfortunately, this not only meant no holiday for the family, but loss of money and no option to re-book. Had this family booked with the accommodation provider direct they would have been entitled to the resort’s more generous cancelation policies.”

Most Queenslanders are aware that some operators are charging different rates for accommodation and tours depending on the flexibility of the cancellation policy.

“What some may not be aware of is that different cancelation polices may apply depending on how a booking is made” Ms Thomson said.

“It pays to compare cancellation policies as well as comparing prices when choosing accommodation, especially if you’re considering booking through a third-party booking website.”

The OFT’s top tips for pandemic travel:

-       Always read the fine print including the terms and conditions, cancellation and refund policies.

-       Do your homework.

  • Compare cancellation policies, especially if using a third-party booking agency.
  • Check the accommodation provider’s website - in some cases you will get a better deal, in terms of room cost and cancelation fees, if you book direct.

-       For future international travel plans, consider checking with the experts and talk to a travel agent.

- Be aware that terms and conditions cannot be changed after you have paid a deposit for your booking.

The OFT works to help people who are unable to resolve travel and accommodation issues and continues to work with other states, territories and the commonwealth’s consumer protection regulators on issues regarding this industry.

If any person believes they have not been fairly refunded or treated by a service provider, or if terms and conditions have been changed after you’ve made a booking and paid, they can lodge a complaint online with the OFT or by phoning 13 QGOV (13 7468).