In an attempt to offset the potential losses for travel agents and operators resulting from mass cancelations due to the coronavirus health crisis, the European Commission is encouraging customers to opt for vouchers instead of refunds and consider traveling at a later date.
According to the updated European consumer protection legislation on package travel known as Package Travel Directive (PTD), customers are entitled to a full refund for holidays canceled as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, in efforts to keep hundreds of travel agencies and tour operators afloat, the Commission through its update is suggesting that travelers consider accepting a postponement of their package travel to a later date rather seeking a refund. Customers who do not make use of the credit note will be allowed to ask for a full refund.
“This new guidance will give customers the essential assurance that they will either get a holiday or their money back, as well as providing a much needed helping hand to travel companies through these difficult and unprecedented times,” said ABTA CEO Mark Tanzer.
Representing some 80,000 travel agents and tour operators in 29 countries, ECTAA welcomes the Commission’s move to update the directive, noting that it “provides clarification and concrete examples of the rights that customers are entitled to under the European consumer protection legislation on package travel”.
“We welcome the pragmatism taken by the European Commission. The consumer retains his right to refund but is advised to consider a voucher for future travel rather than an immediate refund, which will accelerate the financial demise of the travel agent. There is nothing to gain for the customer if the travel agents go bankrupt, as the guarantee systems in place will not be able to absorb all the refund claims of consumers,” said ECTAA president Pawel Niewiadomski.
ECTAA is now calling on EU member states to move swiftly towards ensuring these solutions are implemented while urging stakeholders, including organizers, insurance companies, travel guarantee funds, guarantee issuing banks, etc. to work together at a national level to include these vouchers in the guarantee system, in order to protect customers’ money in case of the bankruptcy of an organizer.