Travel agents are essentially intermediaries between customers and suppliers, and it is important for people to know what complex legal relationships exist between such parties, particularly in case of personal injury or death. No matter what common method of transportation is used, customers are generally protected by international and/or national transportation and safety legislation, as well as by a number of regulations from specialised authorities.
According to the US- based Berkely Group which specialises in insurance for the travel industry, some courts may believe that travel agents owe few duties to the passenger as they are solely agents of supplier products and information. Such an argument may be used to the travel agent's advantage; however, this obviously depends on the situation at hand, the laws pertaining to such a situation, and the country in which the court case is being dealt with. On the other hand, the travel agent may be considered as the agent of the passenger. In such a situation, it is implied that the travel agent owes duties of good care, as the amended version of The Occupier's Liability Act 1957 states. This could be done to ensure that the travel agent improves its level of care and increases its responsibility to provide a hassle free and most importantly, safe experience during embarkation, transit and disembarkation.
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The Warsaw convention 1929 was one of the most important acts regarding passenger safety as it gave the passenger the right to claim compensation for death and personal injury in any circumstance. As the years progressed, other conventions were introduced which altered the liability of carriers and intermediaries in situations where they ensured and provided proof that all of the necessary precautions were taken before embarkation, during transit, as well as during disembarkation. In other words, the carrier or agent in question would be fully or partially exonerated from its liabilities for events which were beyond its control.
Examples of such conventions include The Hague Protocol 1955, which offered protection to airlines when passengers showed intentional misconduct, as well as The Guatemala Convention 1961, which clarified code sharing agreements between airlines, and the liabilities associated with such agreements. It was through the UK Carriage by Air Acts that the Warsaw convention was brought into UK law. (MODULE 4, UNIT 1, LESSON 1) The Warsaw Convention forms the foundation of the Montreal Convention which took its place in 1999.
The Package Travel Regulations 1992 state that the agent would be responsible for some of the actions of the principal. However, Chapter V article 43 of the Montreal convention 1999 states that any agent working for a carrier can benefit from the convention's liability limitations if they acted in accordance with the regulations of their employment. http://www.montrealconvention.org/.
Sea travel is a major industry which sees millions of travellers from around the world on a yearly basis. Cruises are immensely popular, offering a generally relaxing alternative to air and land travel. http://www.justia.com/admiralty/cruise-ships/ However, this does not mean that passengers are in any way less likely to face threatening situations. The world famous Titanic incident led to the formation of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) as well as the adoption of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), which is applicable to sea craft which occupy 12 passengers or more. SOLAS regulates important areas such as fire protection and firefighting skills of crew members, lifesaving equipment, navigation safety, watercraft integrity and stability, and safety management, which are all crucial for the safety and security of passengers onboard. http://www.athertonadvisory.com/tourismcompliancesecurityrisk.html
The Athens Convention relating to the carriage of passengers and their luggage (PAL) 1974 declares that the carrier is liable for damage or loss suffered by a passenger if caused by the neglect of duty by the carrier. However, if the carrier did not intend such damage and was unaware that such damage would occur, the carrier's liability may be limited.Â This regulation provides similar protection to that of the Hague Protocol 1955, but for sea travel.
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International transportation by road is safeguarded and regulated by the Convention on the contract for the International carriage of passengers and luggage by road (CVR) 1973, which applies to all paying passengers. Chapter IV, Liability of the Carrier, Section 1, article 1, states that the carrier is liable for any loss, damage, death, physical, or mental injury caused to the passenger as a result of an accident caused by the carrier's neglect of duty. However, the carrier may have this liability lifted if the accident was caused by circumstances which, whilst using due diligence, were beyond the carrier's control.
Rail transport is on the other hand safeguarded by the Convention Relatif aux Transports Internationeaux Forroviaires 1980 (COTIF). This relates to international travel by rail and is largely similar to the conventions on air travel. The Railways Act of 1993 requires rail operators to adopt the National Conditions of Carriage, which states that the rail carrier is liable for death or personal injury in the case of negligence, but is only applicable to paying passengers. (MODULE 4, UNIT 1, LESSON 1)
1b. AÂ code of practiceÂ is essentially a set of rules and standards which regulate and guide an organisation's business. (UNIT 4, section 4, lesson 2) A travel organisation may devise its own code of practice and have an external body or authority certify it after inspection. Having it enforced and supervised by certified organisations or authorities is a time consuming process, but will offer numerous benefits to the organisation as well as its stakeholders once completed. AÂ code of practiceÂ may take the form of a code of professional responsibility, whereby the organisation must clearly explain what behaviour it considers to be ethical and must project such ethical behaviour in their daily operations. Having a reliable code of practice allows an organisation to project a clear understanding of expectations to consumers.
In the year 2006, the Office of Fair Trading approved and launched the ABTA consumer code of practice, which aims to ensure that consumers are given quality customer service when booking a holiday through a travel agent or tour operator which has been approved by the OFT and ABTA, and carries their approved logo. The OFT is a non-ministerial government department in the UK which enforces and specialises in competition and consumer law, as well as mergers, amongst many others. It only approves codes which aim to endorse and protect consumer's best interests. The Association of British Travel Agents also had to go through the process of getting its own code of practice approved, just as any other travel agent or tour operator would have to.
http://www.travelio.net/abta-looking-after-customers-in-good-times-and-bad.htmlABTAs code of practice must be used as a guide towards strengthening ethical practice, and may also be used to guide those travel organisations seeking to devise their own codes of practice. Consumers who deal with travel agents or tour operators which are ABTA certified can benefit from affordable dispute resolution if problematic situations arise, as well as the services of a disciplinary committee, which when necessary takes legal action against those members that do not follow ABTA code, which is binding upon all ABTA members.
As codes of practice must be approved prior to being made public, consumers are able to make more secure decisions when planning their own holidays. A code of practice promotes the business methods used by an organisation, and is legally binding, so any break in code may lead to legal action. Therefore the consumer can examine the organisation's practices, and make purchase decisions accordingly.
Task 2 - Learning Outcome 2
2a. The employer, Voyages Cabernet, may be held liable for the injuries sustained by Ms. Amelie, travel consultant at Voyages Cabernet, who through the orders of Mr. Colin, Managing director of the company was asked to take six customers on a tour out at sea, without the necessary safety equipment and training required by UK legislation. Voyages Cabernet will therefore be subject to examination under both the criminal and civil law. Criminal law deals with acts of intentional harm, whilst civil law deals with disputes between private parties as well as negligent acts which may pose a threat to others.
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The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states that employers must provide a duty of care for their employees. In the case of Voyages Cabernet, the company director may be held liable for not supplying Ms. Amelie with the necessary training, protective wear and equipment to deal with such a task. The director's failure to comply with his duties is a criminal offence and is therefore subject to criminal law. Assuming that the vessel is solely carrying 6 passengers and Ms. Amelie, the injury which she sustains does not fall under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974, as this only deals with vessels travelling with more than 12 passengers.
The Occupier's Liability Act 1957 states that an occupier of premises(whether fixed or in motion) must take reasonable care that visitors (including employees) will be reasonably safe doing whatever it is they have been permitted to do. The occupier will therefore be considered liable for allowing Ms. Amelie to step into the breach.
2b. http://www.cipd.co.uk/subjects/dvsequl/disability/disandemp.htm?IsSrchRes=1 In the year 2010, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 together with all subsequent legislation pertaining to this law was contained within the Equality Act 2010. Within the Equality Act 2010 there are numerous types of discrimination which pertain to it, of which 'direct discrimination' most appropriately defines the situation that Andrea finds herself in. Direct discrimination deals with a situation where someone is treated less favourably than another person because of a protected characteristic that they have. Andrea must therefore claim under this act for being unlawfully refused employment by Voyages Cabaret due to a disability which she has, even though she may have more than sufficient experience and qualifications for such a position.
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2006/1031/made Veeresh was subject to age discrimination when Voyages Cabernet rejected his application to join the company. The normal retirement age in the United Kingdom is that of 65 years, however as Veeresh is 63 years of age and would not be reaching the standard retirement age within the next six months; his application should not be rejected on the basis of his age, without the necessary justification. This is an unlawful act which allows Veeresh to take action against VC under the Employment Equality (Age) regulations 2006.
Task 3 - Learning Outcome 3
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukdsi/2008/9780110811574 Under Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regs 2008 Schedule 1, 'Commercial practices which are in all circumstances considered unfair', making an invitation to purchase services at a specified price and then refusing to take orders for it at the marked price, Voyages Cabernet may be held liable for false promotion and not remaining faithful to the marketed price. According to Voyages Cabernet's track record of unreliability, this may likely have not been a mistake, but rather an intended 'bait and switch'. In such a case, If Joanna is refused the three night package at the advertised price; she may take legal action against Voyages Cabernet by consulting a local authority. However, should this have truly been a genuine mistake, VC may not be held liable.
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1977/50/enacted Part I Amendment of Law for England and Wales and Northern Ireland, Section 2(1) of The Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 states that liability for death or personal injury cannot be excluded or restricted by Voyages Cabernet. The required ship maintenance was not carried out, and Charlie was therefore injured as a result of such negligence. Charlie may therefore take legal action under this section of the act. Under section 2(2), in the case of loss or damage, Voyages Cabernet cannot restrict or 'exclude its liability for negligence except in so far as the term or notice satisfies the requirement of reasonableness'. His cabin was presumably locked, and the necessary security measures should have been in place to avoid such an occurrence. He may therefore seek legal assistance under this section of the act.
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1999/2083/madeAlso, under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regs 1999, Schedule 2, Regulation 5(5), limiting or excluding the liability of the seller, Voyages Cabernet, in the event of the death or personal injury experienced by a consumer, the consumer may take legal action against VC for not carrying out its duty and failing to make the necessary repairs which resulted in injury.
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukdsi/2008/9780110811574 The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 Schedule 1, Regulation 3(4)(d) states that it is unfair for Voyages Cabernet to invite consumers to purchase products at a specific price when it is known that there would be insufficient supply, or in this particular case, no supply whatsoever. This is known as bait advertising, whereby companies seek to advertise using false information simply to grab the attention of consumers. This practice is considered to be unfair, and Arthur may therefore take legal action against VC under the aforementioned regulation.
Task 4 - Learning Outcome 4
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a concept which revolves around self-regulation. Adopting CSR requires ongoing commitment, as organisations must determine the extent to which their business processes affect their customers, employees, shareholders, communities and the environment, and take the necessary action to reduce any negative impacts. Once implemented into a business strategy, CSR will reap benefits as both an effective marketing tool and a means of attracting customers.
In its purest form, eco-tourism is defined as responsible travel to pristine sites of natural floral and faunal significance, and aims to educate travellers on the importance of the natural environment, as well as the cultural heritage of local inhabitants. An ethical eco-tourism organisation would invest a proportion of the funds collected through the provision of its eco-tourism services, in environmental and cultural preservation initiatives to offset or reduce any negative impacts caused by their business activity. Unfortunately however, the eco-tourism industry is full of businesses which act on false commitments and values, simply to tap into a profitable market.
Ecotourism Kenya is an organisation which promotes ecotourism and sustainable tourism practices, and provides guidance and support to those organisations throughout Kenya which share a similar vision. During the 2007 National Ecotourism Conference in Nairobi, Ecotourism Kenya presented its plans for a holistic CSR model.
In its CSR report it stated that sustainable tourism is expected to grow at a much higher rate than conventional tourism, and is also more intuitive in finding ways to fund conservation projects. Ecotourism Kenya believes in developing a holistic CSR model which collectively deals with major issues such as health, education and training, biodiversity and cultural conservation, sustainable energy, appropriate water and waste management, and climate change.
The report also states that organisations which adopt CSR may benefit from marketing differentiation, a substantial increase in staff pride and commitment, and a resultant increase in consumer demand and profit generation, whilst simultaneously aiding in the general effort of sustainable and responsible eco-tourism. In other words, developing a socially responsible business ethic would allow organisations to improve their position in the market place and maximise wealth creation, both for themselves, and for those communities which are affected by their services.
Corporate social responsibility has become an authentic initiative for the few, and a money-making trend for the majority. Unfortunately, the approach adopted by certain travel organisations towards supplying eco-tourism products is unethical, as they solely aim to make profit with very little regard for the environment and society. It is therefore fundamental to avoid booking an 'eco-holiday' through an unaccredited and possibly unethical and unreliable travel agent or tour operator. Consumers must ensure that they opt for an authentically certified organisation. Ecotourism Kenya is a highly acclaimed and authentic eco-tourism organisation which is the main certifying body for eco-tourism in Kenya, with an extensive list of members, ranging from tour operators to government agencies.
'Responsible travel' is a UK based online directory which showcases holidays from some of the most environmentally and socially responsible tour operators in the world. It has based its headquarters in Brighton, the birth place of beach tourism, and is made up of a team of specialists in the field of responsible eco-tourism. It strongly believes in environmental awareness, and ensures that all of its members follow its strict policies of responsibility towards the environment and society. As a matter of fact, all holidays which are showcased on its website are subject to thorough screening processes, and must adhere to its strict policies for responsible tourism. It aims to release a CSR report on a yearly basis, its first one being the 2009 CSR report, followed by that of 2010.
http://www.responsibletravel.com/resources/csr/rtReport2009.pdf Responsible Travel's 2009 CSR report deals with its aim to deliver unique and special experiences to travellers, whilst ensuring that local people and their environments are fully respected. To ensure that its holidays are of the highest quality, it kindly asks customers to submit reviews which cover the social and environmental impact of their holiday experiences, all of which can be found on its website, unedited, for everyone to see. These reviews are examined by Responsible Travel as well as by the concerned tour operators. In general, the vast majority of the reviews which it receives carry four or five star ratings, which projects that the organisation is largely successful in ensuring that its members adopt an ethical approach in the deliverance of their services.
http://www.responsibletravel.com/resources/csr/rtReport2010.pdf Its 2010 CSR report builds upon its previous shortcomings and adds newer targets to its bustling agenda. Since the year 2009 it has welcomed another 114 members to its site, which has helped it promote responsible tourism even further. As one would expect from an ethical eco-tourism organisation, funds are collected from each holiday sold to help local communities and conservation efforts around the world. It also supports international charities and NGO's which share a similar vision. The 2010 report is an improvement over that of 2009 as it clearly lays out the organisation's targets for that year, and states whether it was able to reach such targets as planned, or not. For instance, despite its efforts to find new funders to support its ongoing project, they were unable to lock onto any interested parties. On the upside however, it was able to reduce its dependency on paper by 15%, a decrease of a further 10% over its 5% reduction target. Also, in the year 2010, Responsible Travel was selected by Virgin Holidays as the official organiser of the 'Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards 2010'. http://www.responsibletravel.com
Responsible Travel and its nine hundred-plus members, as well as Ecotourism Kenya and its extensive list of members prove that there are organisations which have adopted an ethical approach towards the provision of eco-tourism services. Responsible Travel openly acknowledges the fact that it is a profitable industry, and their yearly results speak for themselves, however, the major difference between this organisation and many others is that it genuinely believes in environmental and social conservation and responsibility.
However, whilst it is possible for such organisations to provide responsible trips, it is a major challenge to diminish the impact caused by tourists themselves when travelling to a destination, as well as the resultant impact of their sheer presence in a pristine environment.