Greek Voucher Plan for Covid-19 Canceled Trips Raises Concerns
Greek consumer groups said this week that a recently announced voucher plan for travel in Greece at a later date instead of full refunds for trips canceled due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic defies national and EU regulation.
In a letter this week to relevant ministries, Athens-based consumer groups EKPIZO and POMEK are calling for the respect of consumer rights; offering customers the right to choose vouchers or refunds; ensuring liquidity for the tourism sector; executing refunds immediately; implementing additional support and insurance measures for tourism and travel companies; and that vouchers should apply for at least a year and should be transferrable, open in terms of destination and company, and refundable if not used within the given period.
EKPIZO and POMEK underline that according to both Greek and EU law, voucher schemes are optional, adding that dozens of customers have filed complaints about being forced to accept vouchers instead of refunds.
The groups go on to add that coupon schemes have not been adopted by the majority of EU member states, and are offered as an alternative for a short period of time and only as protection in cases of insolvency.
It should be reminded that the European Commission reiterated that was not against vouchers as an alternative to cash refunds for canceled travel bookings due to Covid-19, but only under the condition that they are voluntary and secured against insolvency of tour operators, travel agents and airlines.
Greece recently passed a regulation allowing Greek airlines, ferries and tourism enterprises (hotels and travel agencies) to reimburse customers with 18-month vouchers for canceled bookings instead of cash refunds.
The Greek groups together with other consumer bodies in the EU under the BEUC (European Consumer Organisation) umbrella are calling on the European Commission and EU officials to cooperate and to reach a balanced solution for both customers and the tourism industry. They recommend the establishment of an emergency fund for the tourism and travel sector and to ensure that all Covid-19 support measures are in line with the law.
Lastly, the consumer groups are encouraging anyone facing problems with canceled travel plans due to the coronavirus to file an official complaint.
I’m looking for some advice. In January, my husband and I booked a trip from the US to Greece for the end of August 2020. We were able to get a refund for our flight into Athens, and US citizens are barred entry into Greece anyway, so the trip is obviously not happening now.
We had booked non-refundable stays at two resorts in Crete, one of which is providing us an 18-month voucher and then a full refund. However, the other resort is being extremely uncooperative about the Greek government’s policies (Article 70 of the April 13th statement).
When I first reached out to cancel our stay and ask for clarification on the resort’s voucher/refund policies, they emailed me to say that they will add 20% value through October 2021, after which time they will not provide any refund. They said, “The above complies with the Article 70, paragraph 4 of the act of legislative content issued on April 13, 2020”. However, doesn’t it contradict both paragraph 3 and paragraph 7, where they owe us a voucher for 18 months and then a refund after 18 months has elapsed?
I asked about Article 70 and they responded to me:
“Kindly note that the specific order from the Greek government concerned the period during which the hotel was closed due to the government’s decision and therefore, we were unable to provide the mutually agreed service. Nevertheless, in order to assist you, we have provided the possibility of a free modification for your non-refundable reservation and offered a credit of 20% of the value of your deposit. Our correspondence is proof of our offer, this is why we haven’t issued a voucher for you. If until October 2021, you haven’t been able to stay in our hotel, there is flexibility and we can move your reservation into 2022.”
I think they may be confused about the timing of our scheduled stay, despite me explaining it several times and providing the exact dates. They’re also refusing to give me a voucher (??) and instead are willing to move the dates of stay — although in my mind, that seems like the same thing. I replied that the voucher period should be through February 2022 (although I realize they are likely closed for the winter). I cited the Greek government’s ruling in Article 70, paragraph 7 stating that we are owed a refund after this 18 month period. I haven’t heard back yet and truly don’t know what to do. We’re most likely not going to be able to travel to Greece within the 18 months so this would be more than $1200 lost, in a situation that seems to directly defy the Greek government’s ruling.
What should I do if they refuse to comply with issuing a refund after 18 months? Dispute the credit card charge and file an official complaint with the Ministry of Tourism? Any insight would be most helpful. Thanks so much!
I have reservations with Rhapsody Apartments in May. The owner says he operates in May (which is illegal) and refused a refund, only a voucher valid for 2 years. Booking.com will not comment on the illegality of his operation and asked me to wait till they “update” their policy – a way to delay the cancellation.
My Name is Michael Fish, I live in Perth, Western Australia. We had booked accommodation with a Hydra Hotel named Doukos Port House on the 3rd of January. It was not cheap accommodation. We were going to spend 6 days on the island Arriving in Athens and travelling by Ferry to Hydra on the 13th June 2020. This was only one part of a well planned extensive Holiday throughout Europe. Naturally we have been saving up for a long time and we are in our 60’s nearing retirement age. I do however, still own a business and I am required to work hard for my savings.
When Covid-19 struck our country and the restrictions were put in place by our Government, Businesslike mine were devastated as was the tourist industry. We have zero income and our Government Halted Travel overseas and between states, Airline companies started offering vouchers and refunds and were obliged to do the right thing. There was no way we were able to travel this year and probably next year considering the large loss of income we are facing. Most of my friends had a very good response by the management of the accommodation places they booked on Hydra and even though they had a no refund booking in place they were refunded their money.. Considering that none of us were thinking of cancelling and would like to try to get back to GREECE in future I think that those people that they dealt with who gave back their money, as a good will gesture, were spot on and will ensure that they have return business. My Doukos Port House accommodation management, however, have gone down a path that suggests to me that that have no intention of refunding my hard earned money, even though it was no fault of my own that I am unable to arrive on the date booked. A no refund cancellation policy through Booking .com is not designed to take advantage of the customer it is designed to protect the business providing the accommodation when people cancel and leave no time to fill that accommodation before the due date. I did not cancel my holiday it was a decision made by my Government and I gave Doukos Port House ample time to communicate with me back in March and ample time to rebook the room, although I doubt that there will be any one travelling at that time. The first response I received was that they reminded me that I have a no refund booking and that they were unaware of travel restrictions placed upon Australians. This was a stalling tactic and instead of using good will skills, they hid behind official information and followed a political line of response. This is not good for the Greek Tourist business. Doukos House has continued this line of response with out any interest in my plight or interest in gaining my repeat business. I have now a very bad taste in my mouth from my dealings with this company. They have offered me 18 months of credit to rebook my holiday but this is asking for something that won’t happen. The Greek tourist Bureau have stated that they do not have problem with credit vouchers however if the Guest can not rebook in the 18 month extension then the customer should receive a full refund. I mean they have my money for 18 months and so I prop up their business then when they get back on their feet they should Refund my money . That sounds fair but I am not getting that from this company. I have already explained to these people that I want to travel to Greece in the Warmer months and It is going to take me 3 to 5 years to save up my money to come back. Why don’t they understand this. My first preference is to have a full refund. That gives me an incentive to make sure I get back to the Doukos Port House as soon as I can because then they have shown me that they have every good intention. As a member of the Tourism industry I am sure you will agree with me. My second preference, if the management want to carry on with an official heartless line, is to have the 18 month credit voucher and if I cannot return then refund my money. My third option is to receive a no limit credit voucher so that I can try to get back to Beautiful Greece in my time. I do not think this company is setting the right precedences for Geek Tourism considering these extreme times of hardship. Greek Tourism needs to make sure that people don’t feel they are getting ripped off by uncaring individuals who are taking unfair advantage of a no refund policy that was never created for this one in a hundred year event. This can cause damage to the Greek Tourist Business because I will tell many of my friends and colleagues of the attitude of this Business.
I know the Tourist industry is hit hard by this pandemic but the economy will be the biggest casualty if this isn’t managed properly by the Authorities and Government Bodies concerned. It is surely in the best interest of everyone to solidify the reputation of the Greek Tourism Industry and show the world that they have compassion and are reaching out in these tough times to extend the hand and guarantee repeat business and ensure a healthy future.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to raise a concern that I have for the industry. I am hoping that the management will change their game that they are playing.
Hoping this ends soon.
Voucher | Definition of Voucher at Dictionary.comwww.dictionary.com › browse
a form authorizing a disbursement of cash or a credit against a purchase or expense to be made
Let us assume my chosen airline, travel agent, hotel or tour operator goes bankrupt because of COVID, who is ever going to honour their respective vouchers, since who issued it has becomem insolvent.
The traveling public, tourist will be disappointed and loose confidence if we are amnbiguous on this matter. A voucher is not the correct format. Stuart Evans Foremr Airline Operations Manager
Please advise where I can raise a formal complaint?
Hi Son. You can file a complaint at the Ministry of Tourism – http://www.mintour.gov.gr/en/Contact/complaints/