Message from Steve Berry, Managing Director of Mountain Kingdoms
The events of the last two months show us all how precious the lives of our loved ones really are. The viability of corporations, airlines, banks and even whole economies have been ignored as mankind has come together to defeat this invisible threat. It is a heartening thought isn’t it, that individual lives are more important than money?
It is 33 years since my friend, Steve Bell, and I started Himalayan Kingdoms in a two room attic office in Clifton, Bristol; offering trekking and climbing holidays in all parts of the Himalaya. Since those early days the company – now Mountain Kingdoms – has expanded to offering holidays across the world and a year never goes by without something happening somewhere from earthquakes to assassinations; Gulf Wars to Brexit, and whilst all these events have had an impact on travel, up until now there has been nothing that has threatened the whole world.
The scale of human suffering as a direct and indirect result of Covid-19 is without precedent, and beyond previous imagination, and it is in times like these we really see what companies and individuals are made of.
When the gravity of the situation became obvious, our first task at Mountain Kingdoms was to help those clients that found themselves stuck in various remote parts of the globe.
Then our attention turned to clients who were due to travel in the near future. From day one, we decided that where needed, due to FCO travel advice, destination or airline schedule restrictions, we would cancel holidays, asking customers due to travel if they would like to transfer, without charge, to an alternative holiday in 2020 or 2021, or if not, offering a refund. This policy follows the law brought about by the European Travel Package Regulations 2018 and we continue to adhere to this.
Many of you transferred to later dates, or to different holidays, and we are very grateful for that. Understandably and naturally, in such uncertain times, some chose to take full refunds. We ask you for your patience as we work our way through this large task.
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the travel trade, through ABTA, AITO and ABTOT, has been lobbying the government to change the current law in order to help cash-strapped travel companies. The proposed change would allow tour operators to suspend an existing holiday due to the exceptional circumstances, and instead of refunding customers, issue them with a Refund Credit Note which could be used to book another holiday at a later date. It is intended these credit notes will be financially protected by the tour operator’s bonding (usually ATOL or ABTOT) and valid for over 12 months.
This law may, or may not, happen but I have decided that Mountain Kingdoms will continue to offer free transfers, and if requested, refunds, until such time as a new travel law is passed. It is sad to think some airlines and large travel companies are not setting a similar example at this time.
Please be assured that Mountain Kingdoms is a strong, financially stable company and we will still be here long after the coronavirus has come and gone.
I am sure that when this is all behind us you will be keen to travel again, and I do hope that you will appreciate the stance we have taken at this extremely difficult time.