Cancelled school trip to red list Peru sees some students losing £2,250

Machu Picchu in Peru, one of the stops on Samuel Whitbread's cancelled Camps International trip

Machu Picchu in Peru, one of the stops on Samuel Whitbread's cancelled Camps International trip - Credit: Paula Nardini via Pexels

Families have been left in limbo waiting for a refund after a trek expedition to Peru was cancelled due to the pandemic.

Around 30 students from Samuel Whitbread Academy in Clifton were set to jet off on the trip of a lifetime to Peru last summer, but the trip was postponed because of coronavirus.

As part of the month-long adventure, those on Camp Peru would spend their trip undertaking community project work; improving local infrastructure and providing safe and productive learning environments for children, as well as building a toilets to improve sanitation.

But with many parents and students not prepared to travel this coming July, they were left hanging in the balance - to cancel or not to cancel?

Peru is currently on the government's red list, meaning entering the UK is banned due to COVID-19 restrictions.

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Despite this, people who cancelled their place on the trip ahead of Camps' termination are not eligible for a full refund, which means that £2,250 of their trip - which cost £4,450 excluding extras such as vaccinations - will not be returned to students and their families.

"I would've expected a bit more of a higher moral standing on their part," one parent told the Comet, noting that a huge proportion of the lost money was obtained through fundraising and would have had a positive impact on the students and the communities they were due to visit. 

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"If it was purely a business that was trying to make money, I would be more accepting of the fact that they've got terms and conditions to abide by and they're not prepared to give a refund. I'd probably just take that on the chin.

"But we weren't buying a holiday to go and sit on an island somewhere and soak up the sun for two weeks, this was a package expedition. As much as this was going to provide my daughter the opportunity to try something different, the reason she wanted to go in the first place is because she wanted to give back to communities that don't have the same privileges as we do.

"The fact that it was based on a charitable purpose seems to make it sting even more, because it seems that that whole selling point was a front."

All that is standing in the way of this family - along with hoards of others from Samuel Whitbread and other schools embarking on trips with Camps International - receiving a refund for the full amount was the final instalment, which was approximately £925.

The parent added that it would have been "irresponsible" if she let her 18-year-od daughter go, and doesn't feel that prioritising her child's safety means that the family are missing out on over two grand - when other families who paid in full are due to get all their money back.

Stating that Camps reassured families the trip would only go ahead if it was safe to do so, the parent added: "They're sitting on thousands of pounds of our money, and we're just feeling this frustration.

"We're fully aware that we took a risk when we cancelled it ourselves. We could've paid the outstanding amount and waited and held out hope that the government would say 'no travel' and that we'd get our money back, but I don't know if anyone has got their money back, or if they even will.

Camps stated that any monies due to be returned would be cleared within eight weeks - with the close of the eight-week window coming this Friday. The parent told the Comet that there has been no indication from Camps as to where this money will be refunded to, and if it would be refunded in instalments or as one lump sum.

At the time of publication, no money had been returned to the parent that contacted this paper.

"They made the same decision, but I had the guts to make it earlier!" she exclaimed.

"I just really want other parents to be aware," she said. "I really don't think they're the organisation they make themselves out to be, and I  just wouldn't want to see anyone at any point be in the same position in the future and lose that kind of money.

"It's not fair, it's just not fair."

Nick Martin, Samuel Whitbread's principal, said: “We have worked with Camps International for several years and all of the previous trips they have run for us have been fantastic and extremely well organised.

"With the COVID-19 outbreak causing last year’s trip to be cancelled, many of our families chose to defer their place with a view to going to Peru this summer instead.

"However, with the pandemic continuing to have a significant impact across the world, it became inevitable that this year’s trip would also not take place.

"We are therefore disappointed with the way this has been handled and, given the extraordinary circumstances, we feel Camps International should have given a full refund to all affected families, including those who felt they had no choice but to cancel rather than pay a large final balance for a trip unlikely to be happening.”

A spokesperson from Camps said: "We have been in continuous communication with Samuel Whitbread Academy with regards to the student expedition to Peru for many months now. It has been an extremely difficult time for schools and the travel industry in which we have supported our schools in their decisions to either cancel, defer to 2022 or continue travel as planned.

"Our communications have been direct with schools as it would be the school that will make any key decisions regarding school expeditions and approve any official communications regarding decisions with the parents.

"We can now confirm as of Friday, May 28, parents have been informed that the trip to Peru will no longer be taking place. Camps International have given all confirmed travellers on the booking, the opportunity to either defer to 2022 or receive a full refund."

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