The European Commission’s review of consumer protection in the travel sector was discussed during the European Travel Agents’ and Tour Operators’ Associations’ (ECTAA) recent semi-annual meeting held in Thessaloniki.
Representatives of national associations, tour operators and travel agents expressed their concern since the Commission seems to be reluctant to revise the Package Travel Directive with effect to all stakeholders of the travel value chain.
According to ECTAA, the options under review show little alignment between the measures imposed on tour operators and those on airlines.
The travel and tourism body is calling on European Commissioner of Justice Didier Reynders and Commissioner of Transport Adina Vălean to implement all proposed measures to both tour operators and airlines.
Reynders, whose portfolio includes consumer protection, has clearly expressed the intention to limit prepayments to tour operators in the review of the Package Travel Directive.
However, “there is no apparent interest” in limiting prepayments to airlines in the review of passenger rights, which is under the responsibility of Vălean.
“Limiting pre-payments and imposing insolvency protection on only one part of the value chain to the detriment of tour operators, which are mostly SMEs, will squeeze them out of the market,” said ECTAA President Frank Oostdam.
At the same time, the European Commission is considering to further regulate the protection of package organizers’ insolvency, without showcasing any concrete options under review to effectively regulate airline insolvency protection, despite the recommendation of the European Court of Auditors of June 2021 to extend the insolvency protection offered by the Package Travel Directive, including repatriation costs, to airlines under Regulation 261/2004.
ECTAA sees the European Commission’s approach as “a lack of understanding” on how the travel industry works.
“Tour operators are not holding the costumer’s money; they have to pay their suppliers, in particular airlines, who in most circumstances require advance payment in full,” ECTAA said.
ECTAA represents some 123,000 travel agents and tour operators in Europe.