Europe’s travel agents and tour operators are calling for concrete actions including provisionally changing the EU’s Package Travel Directive so that the tourism value chain can continue after coronavirus (Covid-19) restrictions are lifted to operate.
The European Travel Agents’ and Tour Operators’ Association (ECTAA) is stressing that only through coordinated actions and far-reaching liquidity measures can the tourism industry begin to recover.
“Tourism being such an important sector for many European countries, we need a coordinated approach, mixing flexibility measures and injection of liquidity,” ECTAA President Pawel Niewiadomski recently said in an announcement.
“The status quo prevailing for the past six weeks is not sustainable. Concrete actions must follow this call as soon as possible,” he added.
ECTAA’s announcement comes on the back of a proposal by state officials to tap into the EU Recovery Fund for tourism. The association is also backing a “harmonized solution” for travel packages refund policies, including refunds in the form of vouchers.
Operators and agents are pointing to the lack of liquidity which is impacting the tourism value chain and which they claim is “on the verge of collapse” requiring a “plan of unprecedented scale”.
With regard to the thorny issue of travel package refunds or vouchers, ECTAA is in support of a “harmonized solution” noting at the same time that the EU’s Package Travel Directive (PTD) “is not fit for purpose to deal with the massive waves of cancellations witnessed since the generalised travel restrictions worldwide”.
ECTAA together with other industry bodies reiterates the importance of tourism and underlines that the sector’s recovery should be the European Commission’s key priority when drawing up a recovery plan.
ECTAA suggests providing the wider travel ecosystem with state-injected liquidity that will ensure all travelers are refunded or the possibility of using refundable vouchers that are protected against travel agent insolvency.
To achieve this, ECTAA notes that the directive must be amended as there are a number of EU members that are still not allowing vouchers instead of refunds.
Meanwhile, Greece’s consumer groups have called for the implementation of the directive that foresees full refunds for package travel. The groups underline that vouchers for travel at a later date should only be an option for consumers.