Industry associations ‘deplore’ revised Package Travel proposals

Industry associations ‘deplore’ revised Package Travel proposals

Pan-European travel industry associations representing travel agents, tour operators, technology companies and hotels have called on EU ministers to postpone agreement on a new Package Travel Directive (PTD), planned for today.

The European Travel Agent’s and Tour Operators’ Association (ECTAA), the European hospitality association Hotrec and the European Technology and Travel Services Association (ETTSA) warn the revised PTD is “damaging”.

The European Council of Ministers’ Competitiveness Council is due to adopt a “general approach” to the revised PTD at a meeting today.

ECTAA warned the proposed PTD text would “be harmful to the entire travel industry and especially to travel agents and tour operators”.

ETTSA secretary general Christoph Klenner (pictured) described elements of the revised PTD as “an attempt to bully the online industry”. He told Travel Weekly: “We have a serious problem.”

Hotrec urged the council of ministers to postpone any agreement “until solutions are found to avoid the damaging effect the current compromise would have”.

The original draft of a new PTD was published in July 2013. The European Parliament agreed a revised text ahead of European elections in May.

But the European Council of Ministers only began examining the text in October and has proceeded rapidly under an Italian presidency which wants an agreement in principle by the end of this month.

The proposals would bring most UK Flight-Plus bookings within the definition of a package holiday.

They would also introduce a new category of protected booking, an assisted travel arrangement (ATA), for so-called ‘click-through’ sales between the websites of separate companies.

These arrangements would have a status similar to current flight-plus bookings in the UK, requiring consumer financial protection but not constituting a package.

Klenner said ETTSA had no problem with the proposals to extend the definition of a package, but he described the ATA proposals as “unworkable”. He said: “The text now is worse than it was.

“It tries to shoehorn any type of arrangement between online traders into a framework designed for traditional tour operators in the 1990s.”

Hotrec said in a statement: “A rushed agreement will severely harm the hotel industry. The text is simply not workable.

“The compromise proposed would transform into packages many hotel services currently not considered as such.

“It would indirectly and unintentionally prohibit many promotional offers for early and late standalone hotel bookings.”

ECTAA accused the Council of acting “without assessing the impact of numerous decisions taken during the last few weeks”.

It said: “Ectaa strongly regrets that the presidency proposes an ‘a la carte’ approach regarding the scope [of the directive] allowing member states to decide whether to include certain travel services.

“Package travel organisers and traders will be overburdened by rules which have not been properly assessed and do not apply to all traders offering travel services on the market.

“The situation will be worsened by imposing a 14-days right of withdrawal on organisers whereas there is no equivalent right for travel services when they are not combined.”

Ectaa president Lars Thykier said: “This work has been rushed for the sake of achieving a first reading. There is a serious risk that the text will not . . . favour a level playing field and will increase market fragmentation.”

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