I am trying to find out if there is a legal responsibility for a tour company to refund the price of a trip if they cancel. I saw that Rick Steves is refunding money to people who book with them because it is their legal responsibility. We were supposed to go to Israel with a tour company at the end of April and they seem to want us to put that money towards a trip with them for next year. Given these uncertain times we would prefer to have a refund. I tried to google tour company's legal financial responsibility in this case (especially given Rick Steves' comment), but all I can find is information about what my options are if I cancel depending on my trip insurance.
Well, first of all, what is the name of the tour company and where is it based? What does its cancellation policy say in the fine print? These are all things that will help people answer you more effectively.
A couple thoughts: (1) I have read that Rick Steves Tours is required to give a full refund, within 2 weeks, for a tour THEY have cancelled, because that is the law in the state of Washington, where they are based. What state is your tour company based in, and what is the law there; (2) what is offered may be different dependent on whether the tour company has already cancelled your tour, or whether it is still on their schedule and YOU want to cancel. That is different at RST too. If YOU are cancelling, many companies may allow you get a credit to re-schedule into the future, but not provide a refund. If the company has not yet cancelled your particular tour date, you might wait until they do.
Did you pay for your tour with a credit card? If you did, and if the company does not refund the money you can file a claim with your CC company. I have done this for other products/situations and the CC company responded very quickly.
The law governing sellers of travel does vary by state, and I‘m sure that some are not as strict as Washington’s. Booking directly with an international company would also be different. As well, their terms and conditions should be spelled out at the time of purchase.
I'm also seeing this question on the Road Scholar forum. I've found the verbiage in their website saying they will refund although some people are apparently only being offered vouchers. To the ones that have posted, I've suggested they have the website link up to the page that discusses a refund when they call so they can quote the website to the not-very-well-trained Road Scholar phone staff.
I've also seen some comments on Trip Advisor where people are getting conflicting information based on who they talk to at various tour companies. One person posted that while her friend got a complete refund on a Trafalgar Tour she was only offered a credit for the same tour date. Another person has posted that they've only been offered credit from Gate 1 while an AHI/Smithsonian traveler has been given a full refund.
First, I'd look at the website and see if you can find anything on there regarding their duty of care if they cancel a tour, then if you've gotten anything in writing or via email I'd scour that as well.
I will add that I loved the Rick Steves company before this awful time because they are pretty forthright on the website about things. I have even more respect for them as a company now.
Reason number 47 I book with RS.
My spring 2020 tour in England with an Australian tour company has been "deferred." The fine print on the website says that full refunds are given if the company cancels. The company is providing full refunds less $500 AUD which can be applied to the rescheduled date, tentatively Fall 2021 (the tour is normally offered once a year and the spring 2021 tour is full), or it can be applied to another 2021 tour with that company. I'm not happy with this policy as I'm not able to take the rescheduled tour and have asked for a full refund. I haven' t heard back yet.
I am so glad I booked with RST. I am happy that I waited and let them cancel my trip so I get my $6000 back. I think they know most of us will find another time and tour with them.
I applaud RS. It's also good business sense if you think about it. If a tour company refused a refund or a rain check for another date, my business with them would be over.
RS Tours response to this crisis has ensured they will be my first choice in the future. I had a tour scheduled later in the year with an international company and they have 'deferred' the tour one and half years. They say they will refund all but the deposit "when they receive the 'funds back from their suppliers!' So, I wait and hope. By deferring they can keep the deposit. It was to begin in May so I am waiting to contact the hotels and airlines in April as I know they are swamped right now. One great reaction though I want to tell you about. I had a walking tour in Oxford scheduled with Brit Movie Tours. I contacted them with little hope I would even get a reply. They have pushed forward my tour by 6 months and said if I can't make that one to let them know and they will forward date it again. You learn alot about who you want to travel with in times like this.
I cheated on Rick Steves. I took the Best of Ireland tour last October. Loved it. Around the same time I booked the Ireland tour, I booked a Holland & Belgium tour starting April 16 with a different tour company. My thought at the time was that I had not taken the Ireland tour yet and I didn't wanted to be committed to another RS tour if I didn't like it. Big mistake. My tour company still has not canceled the tour despite the 30 day ban initiated by President Trump because, according to their last correspondence, the ban will lift April 11 and they expect things to return to normal (their words, not mine.) Now that the EU has closed it's borders, I think the game of chicken I have been playing with this tour company will be over and they will be forced to cancel. My Delta non-stop from Tampa to Amsterdam on April 14 will most probably be canceled so I will get a refund. I don't know about the return flight on April 25th since the 30 day border closure might be lifted by then. I'm rather new to this whole travel thing so I don't know how that will work. This has been an interesting experience and I have learned a lot from it. One thing I know for sure is that I will never cheat on Rick Steves again.
Thank you everyone for your response. We have been in touch with our tour company and travel insurance company. Our tour company hasn't actually cancelled the trip yet although we all know that there is almost zero chance of it going. I think in the end we will get a some money back but it is going to be a headache and a long process to make that happen.
Keep in mind that your travel insurance will not pay if a travel agent defaults, only a tour company, even if it’s court-proven theft. We learned the hard way. Old tale of woe, but good to remember now.
You have to remember it is a question of capitalization. These companies need to survive. If they refund all moneys, they could be bankrupt. They may not have the cash flow to refund everyone. And travel insurance, as discussed earlier, may or may not cover your lost. Some travel insurance exclude bankruptcies. We are going to have to have a lot of patience, prepare for some losses, massive amount of inconvenience, and a little hope that it was pass within a few months. Some forecasts are suggesting this could hang around for at least another year. A very sober assessment our by a west coast medical facility suggested this will not slow down until about 50% of the population has been infected. We have a ways to go. We may have to put our self-interests aside for awhile. This is going to get very, very messy.
I think it totally depends on their cancellation policy if it's written in their policy that there will be no refund which means you cannot do anything. However, if they have a refund policy and they are forcing you to re-schedule your trip then I think you have a legal option to exercise.