In a recent survey, 67% of EU citizens mistakenly thought that they were protected when buying such travel arrangements. This has led to confusion amongst consumers and unfair competition between operators.
The current Directive refers to "pre-arranged" combinations of travel services and does, therefore, not explicitly cover packages which are combined at the consumer's request. The Commission is thus proposing to update EU rules on package travel to get rid of any legal grey zones and make it clear when you are covered and when you are not.
What are the advantages for consumers compared with the existing legislation?
• Better protection of the 120 million holidaymakers buying customised packages or other customised travel arrangements.
• Clear information for all consumers, who will be told exactly what kind of product they are buying and what kind of protection is included in their travel arrangement.
• Fairer and more predictable prices for package travellers, with stricter controls on price surcharges and a requirement to pass on price reductions in equivalent circumstances.
• The possibility for package travellers to address complaints or claims directly to the retailer (travel agent) from whom they bought their holiday.
• Increased termination rights. Unplanned events can occur before departure. Package travellers will enjoy more flexibility by being able to terminate the contract before departure by paying the organiser a reasonable compensation.
• Other essential rights for package travellers.
• Travellers buying other customised travel arrangements will for the first time be protected if the seller or a service provider (e.g. an airline or a hotel) goes bankrupt.
• Intermediaries will be made explicitly liable for booking errors in relation to packages and other customised travel arrangements.
What are the advantages for businesses?
• Modernising the rules and cutting red tape.
• Abolishing specific requirements for brochures.
• Excluding managed business travel from the Directive.
• EU-wide rules will make cross-border trade easier, with common rules on information requirements, liability and other obligations towards travellers.
• The mutual recognition of insolvency protection schemes will avoid unnecessary costs for businesses wishing to operate cross-border.
• Businesses across the EU selling equivalent travel products will compete on an equal footing.
The EU is the world's number one tourist destination, with 400 million international arrivals in 2012. The tourism sector counts 1.8 million businesses, mostly small and medium-sized enterprises, and employs about 5.2% of the total workforce in the EU.
Europeans made more than 1 billion holiday trips in 2011, almost 80% of them in the EU. An estimated 120 million consumers a year buy customised travel arrangements.
The EU travel market comprises approximately 90,000 tour operators and travel agencies. SMEs constitute 99% of these businesses, of which micro enterprises represent 92%. In the EU there are also 200,000 hotels, 13,000 car rentals, 300 airlines and 58,000 businesses operating in the transport sector other than airlines and car rental.
In 2011, the Maltese made 429,000 holiday trips with 48% of these being outbound. 88% of these holiday trips were long ones while 19% were short. The third quarter was the most popular for all countries, except Malta. In Malta’s case the second quarter was the most popular for any trip.