Despite this, the decade ended with fresh demand for the bonding of UK tour operators following the collapse of Wright’s Holidays, which saw a draw on Abta’s common fund of £400,000 in today’s money – nearly half its war chest.
The move resulted in Abta’s man in parliament, MP Kenneth Lewis, seeking compulsory powers from the Air Transport Licensing Board to oversee operators’ financial standing.
Meanwhile, the abolition of retail price maintenance rules on some foreign holidays meant, for example, winter packages to Majorca could be marketed at £32 and eight shillings – £17 below the lowest available scheduled air fare – while Kuoni was now allowed to market 14-day Kenya beach and safari tours for £150 (£2,192 today).
What did it all mean?
As TTG reported extensively, the travel industry in the 1960s was characterised by rapid growth and technological advances including jet aircraft that began to make mass travel affordable.
Like any immature industry, there were casualties among its players that saw travel leaders and politicians begin to voice concerns about consumers being at risk of losing their money.
Firstly, there was the question of the long gap between paying for a holiday and taking it – back then, there was no guarantee customers would be refunded if the operator went bust.
Then there was the issue of who paid for repatriation of clients abroad. It was initially Abta that stepped in with its own solution, one that was not popular because it meant that without an Abta membership, trading was very difficult.
As the 1960s ended, the government showed a growing realisation of the threat of operators taking large amounts of money months before they delivered travel arrangements to the consumer and began to explore the idea of the Atol system we recognise today via the creation of the CAA. This issue of consumer protection was only going to get bigger, parliament realised, although the outbound travel market was still a fraction of what it is today.
A total of 31 million people took UK holidays in 1963, but only 4.75 million went abroad – 30% of whom were travelling overseas for the first time. The average foreign holiday was 15 nights and cost £48 (£804 today). In this regard, the story of the 60s was again one of falling real-term prices enabled by a burgeoning travel industry.
A significant milestone came in 1967 with the launch of an in-house airline by Cosmos Tours. Monarch Airlines was to become a household name and take millions of people abroad on their first foreign trip.
The industry – and consumer protection – was starting to take on a shape that is still familiar to us today.