Hope, inspiration, dreams: at the end of a dismal year, what better gift for your family or close friends than the promise of travel in the seductive shape of a gift voucher? And you can buy it online, regardless of the retail rules that prevail in your town or tier.
Gift tokens are available for products across the travel spectrum, from airlines to hotels to experiences. But if you care for the recipient, please don’t offer one for Christmas.
For a hyper-competitive industry such as travel, choice is everything. Unfortunately gift vouchers are designed to shrink options to just one. And being tied to a single operator is never a good thing.
That £10 note in your purse or wallet will, if you don’t use it, still be there in a year’s time for you to spend or save. But many travel vouchers won’t. Ryanair’s gift cards, you may not be astonished to learn, expire after 365 days.
The carrier’s not overly-generous terms become even more restrictive for those seeking redemption: “Passenger name changes are not permitted if a booking has been paid for using a gift voucher.” Ryanair insists that “gift vouchers can only be redeemed in the currency of issue,” subjecting the user to the airline’s painfully one-sided exchange rate for bookings from the EU to Britain. And in return for “a great gift idea for someone special,” Europe’s biggest budget carrier can’t help but help itself to a £2 administration fee.
The loved one who thanks you profusely on Christmas Day may curse you by summer when they discover better or cheaper flights are available on a different airline, and that time is running out.