The expert view
Worried about the collapse in the value of the pound? Thinking of putting off your holiday plans? My advice is don’t. Get out there and book now. While, it’s certainly true that you will be paying a little more for your holiday than you might have hoped, you are likely to get much better value by acting sooner rather than waiting to see what happens to the exchange rate in the hope that it will improve.
What’s the logic behind this? Since the Brexit vote, the pound has dropped in value by roughly 20 per cent against the dollar, and a little less against the euro. Unless something happens to destabilise the euro or the US dollar, sterling is likely to remain weak for a couple of years – at the very least.
A weak pound not only makes foreign countries more expensive when we get there, but also means that the cost of travelling will rise, because fuel – whether for planes, or ships – is priced in US dollars. Only if the oil price also falls, which isn’t looking likely, will we be spared hefty fare rises.
However, not all these price rises will hit us immediately. Airlines and tour operators know that they are vulnerable to sudden collapses in the value of the pound and, as a result, hedge against it. In other words, they guarantee the exchange rate that they are going to have to pay in advance. The same process can be used to protect against a rising oil price too.
As long as they don’t try to profit unfairly from the situation, what protects them should protect us too. Of course, if the pound strengthens unexpectedly, they – and we – lose out. But in this case few people were predicting a Brexit vote, so any tour operator or airline which did buy currency in advance before June is certain to have obtained it at a much better rate than we are facing now.
So this season’s winter sun and ski packages, and even some of next summer’s offerings, were priced when the pound was buying over €1.30, rather than today’s rate of €1.10. And options on aviation fuel are often bought more than a year in advance. In short, by booking your flight or a package holiday now you can do much to offset the fall in sterling.
Where will the best value be? Because you pay for everything in sterling in advance and won’t even have to pay for food and drink in the local currency, all-inclusive packages will offer maximum value in the short term. If you can find a ski package which also offers the chance to book your lift pass and equipment hire in sterling, that is likely to offer good value too.
However, do check the euro price quoted on the resort website to make sure you really are getting a decent deal – many resorts have an early booking discount, for example.
Cruises too are much more likely to rise in price over the coming months. And if you are planning a long-haul flight in the next year or so, you will probably do well to book it sooner rather than later, too.
issues” with the lodge’s reservations link. The lodge says it cannot accommodate us as it is now full. Booking.com has suggested we stay at Mount Hermon Safari Cottages, 25 miles from the park.
It has said it will pay the price difference of around £121 if we submit receipts on our return. We have rejected this offer as this is too far from the park, but Booking.com says there is nowhere closer that it can book. Time is very short as we travel to Zambia soon. What are our options? JAYNE DEAR
AThank goodness you contacted the lodge before turning up on its doorstep to find no room at the inn. I understand that Mvuu Lodge did get in touch with you via Booking. com’s messaging service soon after you made the reservation, asking if you were part of the Tiger Cup fishing event – but you didn’t respond as you weren’t part of it. Whenever a message like this comes through from a property, it is important to engage in case it throws up a problem with the reservation. There has clearly been some sloppy housekeeping here, especially given that, a week after alerting Booking.com to the problem, the lodge could still be booked on its site for dates you have been told are no longer available.
We decided that the best way forward was for you to rejig your itinerary to stay at Mvuu Lodge at the end of your trip. Fortunately, you were able to swap dates with another lodge on your itinerary which generously waived the change penalty.
You also asked Mvuu Lodge for compensation for its administrative failures and it has agreed to provide two complimentary brunches valued at $200 (£160).
I like Booking.com’s business model, where the customer pays the hotel direct on arrival. Many properties don’t even take a deposit but simply hold card details as security against a no-show. However, as Jayne Dear’s experience shows, if you are booking somewhere remote that may not have a long association with an online agent, it is worth double-checking the reservation is secure by contacting the property using the site’s “Booking Messages” facility.
Booking.com’s policy is that, if a hotel cannot honour a reservation, it must find an acceptable alternative of a similar or superior standard and pay any difference in cost. This is relatively easy in a city or a big tourist area but can be a problem at short notice in a remote location.
I was impressed with Booking.com’s engagement with you. It has a 24-hour, in-house customer service department with more than 6,000 staff and responded quickly to emails. Agents, who had already familiarised themselves with the problem, phoned you several times in an attempt to find a resolution. It will also be paying you $250 (£200) following your stay as a goodwill gesture.
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