The Greek Tourism Ministry recently announced that under a new regulation, tourism enterprises and airlines in Greece will be able to reimburse their customers by issuing 18-month vouchers in efforts to mitigate the effects of cancellations due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
Aiming to address liquidity issues for Greek travel agencies, hotels and airlines, as well as safeguard travelers, the measure will ensure that customers who were forced to cancel due to the coronavirus will be able to use the voucher towards a holiday of choice through the same businesses.
On the one hand, the measure ensures that travelers won’t lose their money and will have the chance to use their booking towards another holiday at a later date. On the other, it aims to ensure the viability of many small and medium-sized tourism enterprises that have suffered a blow due to the Covid-19 health crisis.
However, if the vouchers are not used within 18 months, businesses will be required to refund the amount of the initial deposit in cash.
“Refund policies are a huge issue,” said Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis, adding that the new regulation will cover all tourism stakeholders and businesses allowing an 18-month open period instead of refunds. “This provision will be passed in the next bill in the coming days,” he said.
Other EU countries, including Germany, have also promoted the voucher option instead of issuing refunds. In order for such a measure to take place on an EU level, the European Commission must amend its current refund policy directive.
“We are cooperating on a European level and preparing a letter to the Commission to support the measure,” the minister said.
Last month, the Commission advised customers to opt for vouchers instead of refunds and consider traveling at a later date. The European Travel Agents’ and Tour Operators’ Association (ECTAA) has repeatedly called for more flexible reimbursement rules for package travel.
Speaking to the media on Tuesday, SETE president, Yiannis Retsos, said that the vouchers are expected to protect the viability of many tourism SMEs.
“What we want to avoid are mass refunds from tourism businesses to their customers due to the cancellations caused by Covid-19, ” Retsos said.
According to Retsos, SETE will encourage Greek enterprises to include an added value to the voucher, as a best practice, in addition to the advance payment made for bookings.
However, it is not clear if Greece’s voucher regulation will include ferry tickets that have been booked in advance. GTP Headlines contacted the tourism ministry for a clarification and is awaiting for a response.
Regarding the coastal shipping industry, at the moment a number of ferry companies have already notified customers that they will grant open date vouchers (some providing the possibility of using them until 2022) for tickets booked in advance for travel in Greece.
It remains to be seen what exactly will be decided on the issue.