In addition to TUI, the Canada-based tour operator Sunwing has also been cited by Caribbean hoteliers as still withholding payments.
The umbrella grouping, of which the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) is a member, last year appealed to tour operators to reimburse hotels for stays by mostly European travellers who had made their payments to the tour operators well in advance of travel.
“Most tour operators honoured their obligations, and we’ve been pleased to see that a number of those who had delayed reimbursements have settled since our appeal in April,” said Frank Comito, CHTA’s CEO and Director-General.
But “millions of dollars in reimbursements remain obligated and are jeopardizing the hoteliers” survival, the CHTA boss declared.
“We have acted in good faith, as have those impacted hotels, in seeking and awaiting a timely resolution,” Comito said. “This has become a matter of survival for many small to medium-sized hotel operators in the Caribbean, many of which are independent and locally owned and have been loyal clients for many years to TUI and Sunwing.
“While we understand that the pandemic is impacting the tour operators in a significant way as well, their financial obligations for services already rendered should take urgent priority.”
According to a statement from the CHTA, Comito wrote to Andrew Flintham, the managing director of TUI’s United Kingdom and Ireland operations, asking the company to join its competitors in settling debts to Caribbean hotels.
The CHTA chief executive also described efforts by TUI to advance amendments to payment terms for future contracts – which are even more onerous, as “unreasonable and untenable”.
By failing to pay, TUI appears to be in breach of existing contractual obligations, Comito said, noting that distressed hotels have been longstanding loyal partners, directly contributing to TUI’s Caribbean business.
In April, the CHTA wrote trade associations representing tour operators in Canada, Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States, to address the delays in paying hotels for services already delivered.
Comito said that despite numerous requests to publicly identify tour operators that were withholding reimbursements, the association had refrained from doing so in the interest of long-standing, mutually beneficial relationships. However, Comito charged that the failure to act expediently left CHTA with no choice but to expose the matter.