As the situation in Cyprus continues to dominate the headlines, agents must be a source of accurate, unbiased and useful advice, says Abta's Nikki White.
In the run-up to the Easter weekend, and with the weather in the UK feeling more like winter than spring, many people will be looking to book a late deal in search of some much-needed warmth. So if you’re thinking of recommending somewhere to your customers, Cyprus is currently sunny with temperatures topping 20C – a great spring-break option.
With this in mind, the last thing Cyprus needs is the reports of financial chaos and ATMs running out of cash following the conditions set by the EU to guarantee a bailout for Cypriot banks.
As we all know, it doesn’t take a lot to put people off a particular destination, especially when they are spoilt for travel choices.
If you cast your mind back last year to the demonstrations in Greece, there was a lot of wild talk about the country leaving the eurozone and that euros printed in Greece would no longer be legal tender. Although this was all incorrect, it inevitably impacted on bookings, which only recovered slowly over the course of the summer. Inaccurate, damaging information can have an immediate and direct effect.
As is often the case, the reality on the ground is rather different from the sometimes misleading advice being given by “experts”. These commentators often feel under pressure to give a response when they are not always in possession of all the facts.
One example from morning television caught my attention last week – a financial expert who advised holidaymakers to cross the border into North Cyprus to get their euros.
Two things spring to mind. Access across the border is possible only through a handful of checkpoints, so people could have been in line for a long trip to get some cash. More worryingly, it would have been a wasted journey – the currency in North Cyprus is actually the Turkish lira!
In reality, ATMs in Cyprus are largely working normally, subject to cash-withdrawal limits, and as long as customers take a stock of euros with them, as well as cards, they should not encounter any difficulties.
Travel agents have a role as a source of accurate, unbiased and useful advice, which is essential for customers when choosing their destination. By giving accurate information, you are providing a service not only to your clients but also to destinations with which we have built mutually beneficial relations over many years.
It must never be forgotten that for many destinations, UK tourists are an essential and irreplaceable source of employment.
During these very tough and challenging economic times, it is vital that we continue to support them.
Nikki's column was published by Travel Weekly.