For many small organisers and yoga teachers, it is easy to organise suitable accommodation where customers can enjoy yoga classes in a beautiful overseas environment. What many organisers and teachers fail to understand is how the holiday market has become highly regulated, and that there are serious penalties for not complying with a number of Regulations which carry criminal sanctions if breached.

Package Holidays

Even if you are not organising the customer’s flights, if you are selling accommodation with yoga classes this is highly likely to fall within the definition of a “package holiday” which is regulated by the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992 (“PTR’s”). The usual task of enforcement falls upon Trading Standards Officers who can bring prosecutions in the Magistrates Courts for those breaching its important terms. To comply with the PTR’s would require you to do the following:

  • Your brochure or promotional material has to contain a minimum amount of information about the location and status of the accommodation, the meals, the itinerary, the passports and visa requirements, payment terms and whether cancellation is likely if a minimum number of people do not book.
  • Your booking conditions have to contain minimum terms
  • Customers have to be advised about contact details of a representative, and the details of transport connections
  • You have to allow customers to transfer bookings when they are prevented from travelling
  • You have to set out whether you can adjust prices, or impose surcharges, and on what basis
  • If you change important terms then the customer must be allowed to take a different trip or have a full refund.
  • If important services are not provided overseas, then you must make arrangements to bring the customer home, or make alternative arrangements and provide compensation.
  • Most importantly, you are responsible to the customer for any death, injury or illness overseas which arises due to negligence of any of your suppliers. This means you must have public liability insurance. You are also responsible for the quality of the services your suppliers provide to customers, and they can bring a legal claim against you for compensation.
  • It is an absolute requirement that you must provide security to cover your own insolvency. If you receive money from customers then your business has to be protected by either membership of an approved body, such as ABTA, insurance bonding, or the operation of strictly monitored trust accounts.

Failure to comply with many of the above points is a criminal offence, which can lead to substantial fines on a successful prosecution.

Yoga Packages Including Flights

If flights are sold with accommodation and yoga classes, then you will need an ATOL licence. This is regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority under the Civil Aviation (Air Travel Organisers Licensing) Regulations 1995 (“the ATOL Regulations”). The CAA will require you to register as a licence holder, and meet strict financial criteria relating to your business. For the first four years of trading you will be required to enter into a bond and provide financial security relating to your projected turnover from the sale of the yoga holidays. You will be required to give a personal guarantee to the CAA to make you personally liable if you trade beyond the level of authorised flight seat sales.

The ATOL Regulations again carry criminal sanctions. These are prosecuted by the CAA in the Magistrates Court, and carry penalties of substantial fines.

Is it worth it?

Since the collapse of Excel Holidays, the regulators (Trading Standards Officers and the CAA) are applying the regulations and prosecuting offenders far more vigorously in view of the public criticism raised following this collapse. In addition to this, there are always complaints made about the quality of packages, and inevitably injuries do occur, some of which can be costly to remedy, particular where insurance is not in place.

Responsible organisers and teachers should think about the health and safety and their customers ability to enforce these statutory rights should anything go wrong with their yoga holiday arrangements.