We regret to inform you that your holiday has been cancelled.
It's a bit of a bummer if you save up your money and lock in your annual leave only to discover your trip has been cancelled due to lack of interest.
What do you do?
Go on a different tour? Try to reschedule your leave? Ask for your money back and make other plans?
What if you've booked flights, hotels and other aspects of your holiday to fit in with the tour?
One of the biggest issues has been travellers trying to match good airfare deals with tours.
"Guaranteed departures" are being promoted as a point of difference for some tour operators in Australia, yet many travellers are probably not aware it is something to brag about.
You might assume that if a tour operator has taken your booking, you're definitely going. But if you look at the fine print, you may find that is not the case.
While many tour operators have some guaranteed departures, G Adventures (http://www.gadventures.com), Geckos Adventures (http://www.geckosadventures.com) and Intrepid Travel (http://www.intrepidtravel.com)now guarantee all departures, even if it means losing money on some trips.
They are urging others to do the same, saying there have been too many cancellations and the reputation of all operators is being tarnished.
“People are very time poor these days, so you can't say 'can you change your plans to suit us',” says the director of sales for G Adventures, Belinda Ward.
“There's too much uncertainty if people are told to wait until enough people book.
“And it's the worst call to have to make, to tell someone their trip has been cancelled.”
Ward says one of the biggest issues has been travellers trying to match good airfare deals with tours.
They have either had to grab the flight deal and risk their tour being cancelled, or wait for the tour to be confirmed and risk missing out on the flights. “There's been a real disconnect there,” she says.
Ward says many travellers book organised tours as part of a longer trip or to fit in with a special event such as a wedding and have little flexibility.
The chief executive of the Australian Federation of Travel Agents, Jayson Westbury, says it is a big problem for travellers and travel agents when a tour is cancelled, although it may be for a good reason.
The “tough one” is when a tour is cancelled due to lack of passengers, which may not be a good reason in the consumer's eyes.
“Many agents will make sure they have the guaranteed departure in place with whoever it is before they book, but some still get stuck with this,” he says.
Westbury says travellers should not only ask if their departure is guaranteed but get it in writing.
It could be hard to find a guaranteed departure for a niche tour but it should be relatively easy for mainstream tours, he says.
Ward says G Adventures has had a positive response to its decision to guarantee all departures. “Obviously it was a bit of a gamble to say we're going to guarantee all trips but we did do a lot of research on it,” she says.
While the company is prepared to run a trip with only one or two people on it, it has been able to use last-minute offers and other tactics to boost numbers on slow-selling trips.
In some cases, passengers have chosen to transfer to another tour so they can have the company of other travellers.
“I don't think many people want the experience of having only two people on their trip. That's not what we're about,” Ward says.
She says it would be “advantageous to the consumer” if more operators guaranteed all their trips. “Consumers are caught in a very difficult situation,” she says.
NSW Fair Trading (http://www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au) says operators must make it clear to travellers if there are conditions that could affect the availability of a tour, such as a minimum number of passengers.
If the company is unable to operate the tour, it has an obligation to “provide redress”, usually in the form of a full refund, unless the customer prefers to negotiate another tour or date.
A spokesperson for Fair Trading says if you have a trip cancelled, you should first take it up with the travel agent.
To claim for financial loss, you need to work out the amount of compensation you need “to return you to the financial position you were in before the problem occurred”.
If you are unable to resolve the issue, the next step is to lodge a complaint with Fair Trading in your home state.
Have you ever had a tour cancelled by an operator? What did you do? Post your comments below.