Travel marketing: General


INSIGHT
Published
Apr 15th '24
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Marketers should be able to provide evidence to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) on request, should not mislead, should not quote inaccurate prices and should be able to demonstrate adequate availability.

 

  • Ensure your prices are accurate

Prices should not mislead by omission, undue emphasis or distortion and the price that the customer sees in the ad should be the price which they ultimately are charged. If a customer finds that an advertised price is no longer available or that there are additional costs added during the booking process then this will be problematic. Any non-optional charges, including taxes, duties, fees and supplementary costs should be included in the quoted price. (BAI (UK) Ltd, 31 July 2013 and Mark Warner Ltd, 1 May 2013). VAT exclusive prices can only be given if all those to whom the price claim is addressed pay no VAT or can recover VAT. Such VAT-exclusive prices must be accompanied by a prominent statement of the amount or rate of VAT payable”.

 

Any non-optional charges, including taxes, duties, fees and supplementary costs should be included in the quoted price. (BAI (UK) Ltd, 31 July 2013) and Mark Warner Ltd, 1 May 2013). VAT exclusive prices can only be given if all those to whom the price claim is addressed pay no VAT or can recover VAT. Such VAT-exclusive prices must be accompanied by a prominent statement of the amount or rate of VAT payable (Code rule 3.18). See Compulsory costs and charges: General.

 

Marketers will be expected by the ASA to provide accurate evidence of advertised prices, including pricing history where relevant, and therefore having reliable processes in place to monitor these may be useful. Marketers making savings claims against a reference price (such as a crossed out “was” price, or a percentage saving) must have evidence to demonstrate that the reference price was genuinely the price at which the products would have otherwise been sold. See also Prices: Overview and Promotional savings claims.

 

  • Ensure adequate availability

Marketers should be able to demonstrate that a significant proportion of flights and other travel products are available at the lead-in price, including ‘from’ prices, and consumers should have a reasonable chance of obtaining the products at the advertised price. This is based on the CTSI’s Guidance for Traders on Pricing Practices. As the guidance not offer a further steer on what is considered a significant proportion, this is assessed on a case by case basis in ASA investigations.

 

In 2024 the ASA upheld a ruling against an ad featuring a ‘from’ £39 fare for Eurostar tickets because a significant proportion of tickets had not been available at that fare, therefore the claim was considered misleading. (Eurostar International Ltd, 3 January 2024).

 

A complaint about a Southall Travel ad which stated “Per Adult fr £443 … Extremely Limited Subject to Availability” was also upheld in 2017 because the ad did not make clear that the quoted price was indicative of the last price update, rather than the current available price, and because the ad did not state when that update had occurred. (Southall Travel Ltd, 21 June 2017).

 

Marketers must not exaggerate the availability of prices, or mislead by including contradictory qualifying information or small print (Deutsche Lufthansa AG, 30 October 2013). Marketers must also ensure availability at prices stated for specific search criteria.

 

If you work with third parties, base your claims on prices provided by them and have no control over price availability, see Travel marketing: Working with third parties.

 

See also Travel Marketing: Availability.

 

  • Avoid misleading descriptions

Descriptions for travel products, including flights, seats, destinations, accommodation, excursions, transfers, and facilities or amenities included in the price should not mislead the customer. The ASA upheld a complaint about an itinerary description for a tour in China in a brochure. A picnic and ‘glass of bubbly’ at the Great Wall of China, and a trip to a gorge and cave during a river cruise all featured in the itinerary, but those activities did not take place on the holiday. (The Oriental Travel Company Ltd, 17 April 2013).

 

In 2020 the ASA also ruled against a claim for an “Ultra All Inclusive from +£151pp” option in a hotel listing on a website, which also featured an “all inclusive option”. The ASA had not seen any evidence there was a material difference between the two board types, and the ad did not provide any information about what each option included, therefore they concluded the claim “Ultra All Inclusive” was misleading. (Travel Service (Wimbledon) Ltd, 21 September 2022).

 

The ASA upheld complaints about an ad which described a holiday as “ideal for families”, along with a list of amenities such as 24 hour room service, because many of the listed amenities were not provided, and the hotel was on a busy road with bars. The ASA felt that consumers would find the description “ideal for families” misleading (Travelworld Vacations Ltd, 05 June 2013). Similarly, an ad for a hotel which was described as a “Secluded Haven” was upheld, because there were ongoing construction works (Kuoni Travel Ltd, 04 October 2017).

 

Marketers should also ensure that the photos which they feature in their ads are representative (Hayes & Jarvis (Travel) Ltd, 4 March 2015).

 

Ads should not imply that a flight is return if it is one-way. In general, consumers are likely to understand that a quoted fare relates to a return journey, unless otherwise stated. Flights that are sold as return journeys only should make this clear, and the price of the return journey should not be halved to quote a misleading one-way fare if it is not possible to buy the flight one-way.

 

See also Travel Marketing: Beds and Comfort, In-flight Services and Legroom.

 

  • Include all material information

As well as ensuring that descriptions are accurate, Code rule 3.3 states that ads must not mislead by omitting material information. Material information is information which will affect a consumer’s transactional decision. Marketers should include all information about the product advertised, including dates, airports, flights times, airlines and accommodation.

 

A “From £39” claim in an ad for ferry tickets was found to be misleading, because the fare was restricted to Mondays and Tuesdays only, however the ad did not make any reference to that limitation. (DFDS Seaways Ltd, 22 March 2023). The ASA also considered a further DFDS Seaways ad stating “From £47 pp one way + car” was misleading.  It was not sufficiently clear the £47 price was only available when four places were booked in a four-person cabin, and was not available as a single fare in and of itself. (DFDS Seaways Ltd, 13 September 2023).

 

Additionally, complaint about an ad for British Airways was upheld because the ad, which offered direct flights, did not make it clear that the flight included en-route stops, or any information about these stops, which was considered material information (British Airways plc, 30 July 2014).

 

  • Ensure ‘free cancellation’ claims do not mislead

Marketers should avoid making claims that travel bookings can be cancelled free of charge unless consumers will be refunded fully without any charge. Offering customers who wish to cancel bookings credit vouchers, rather than monetary refunds, would also be likely to render ‘free cancellation’ claims misleading.

 

In 2021, the ASA considered an ad with the claim “Free cancellation until [DATE]”, was misleading after three complainants had been charged a cancellation fee and were subsequently offered credit vouchers instead of refunds. The ASA considered that consumers would understand from the claim that they would be able to cancel their holiday within the stated timeframe without incurring a financial penalty, and any payment made would be refunded. (Alpha Holidays Ltd, 01 September 2021).

 

Any terms or conditions relating to free cancellations, that are material to consumer’s understanding of such claims, should also appear clearly and prominently in marketing communications. In 2023 the ASA upheld a complaint against an ad with the claim “FREE CANCELLATION… You can amend or cancel your booking up to your booked arrival time, without any fees”, as they understood bookings cancelled after seven days of booking incurred a £10 fee in the form of a voucher. The ruling concluded the ad was misleading and the terms for free cancellations, which was material information, only appeared in a pop-box in the ad and were not sufficiently prominent. (Holiday Extras Ltd, 21 June 2023).

 

  • Check the comparative rules when making comparisons

Marketers wishing to make a comparison with competitors should note that there are specific rules on comparisons made with identifiable competitors and all other comparisons. Claims such as “best”, “leading”, “cheaper” or “cheapest”, “more flights than other airlines”, “highest customer rankings” and any other claims which make a comparison will be subject to these rules. Such claims with identifiable competitors should be substantiated with evidence which relates to both the marketer and their competitors, or to the entire market in the case of unqualified superlative claims. See Travel marketing: Comparisons.

 

In general, the ASA will regard a ‘No.1’ claim or claims which are synonymous with this, to mean “best-selling”, unless indicated otherwise, and such claims should be supported by evidence which demonstrates that the advertiser has the largest market share.  In 2022 the ASA ruled that the claim “#1 holiday website on the planet” was misleading because they had not seen evidence demonstrating the marketer had the largest turnover of any holiday rentals compared to their global competitors. (Rental Republic Ltd, 19 January 2022). See No. 1 claims.

 

For a “lowest price” or “cheapest” claim to be acceptable marketers should ensure that they have an appropriate price monitoring and adjustment policy in place to ensure that they are always cheaper than their competitors. A claim on a “Price Promise” page for Avanti West Coast stating “You can search high and low, but you’ll never find a cheaper Avanti West Coast ticket anywhere else” was found to be misleading as consumers had found cheaper tickets for the same journey with third-party split-ticketing providers. (Avanti West Coast, 15 June 2022).

 

Agents that offer optional travel insurance using comparisons with other insurance providers should ensure that their comparison neither misleads nor is likely to mislead. Savings claims should be accurate, generally representative and up-to-date. See Travel marketing: Travel insurance.

 

  • Take care with promotional offers

Marketers must ensure that promotions are advertised in line with the Promotional Marketing rules, that offers are genuine and meaningful and that they have evidence to substantiate any prices.

 

They should include all significant conditions, information which is likely to affect a consumer’s understanding of the offer, such as a closing date and how to participate (Code rule 8.17).  Advertisers must also deal fairly with potential participants and must not cause unnecessary disappointment (8.2). The ASA have ruled against ads that have not included significant information about restrictions of promotional offers (Trailfinders Ltd, 15 June 2022), and ads that omitted the conditions of competitions and where the closing date was extended (Inside Lifestyle, 19 February 2020).

 

Flights or seats should only be described as ‘free’ if the advertiser covers all taxes and fees. If there are any non-optional costs to the customer, the use of “free” will be in breach of the Code. See Travel: Pricing.

 

Marketers should hold evidence to demonstrate that a promotional savings claim or discount is genuine. If using a ‘was’ price, they must be able to demonstrate that the saving advertised is meaningful, by having evidence to show that this is the price that the consumer would have genuinely had to pay before the saving was made. See Travel marketing: Travel promotions and Promotional Marketing: General.

 

Further guidance can also be found in the Advertising Guidance on Travel Marketing, and in other “Travel” entries

 

Source: Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP)

 

About CAP

The CAP is the sister organisation of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and is responsible for writing the Advertising Codes.

 

Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the ASA. CAP’s AdviceOnline entries provide guidance on interpreting the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing.

 

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