AITO has called on the government to offer support to the hundreds of small- and medium-sized tour operators severely impacted by the outbreak of coronavirus.
Following a meeting of the board of directors earlier, AITO head of commercial, Bharat Gadhoke, said: “The 2018 package travel regulations are quite simply no longer fit for purpose.
“The rules, designed to cover normal trading circumstances, cannot function in the current extreme situations in which we find ourselves.
“We have no option but to add our voice to that of others in the industry to demand government action to protect our long-established specialist businesses.”
Package travel regulations require tour operators to refund consumer payments in full should the holiday company prove unable to fulfil a package.
AITO argues the legislation places hundreds of companies in the simply untenable position of being a lender of last resort.
“Many of our members pay for airline and accommodation services well in advance and are extremely unlikely, in the current highly difficult trading scenario, to receive refunds from the suppliers concerned,” said Gadhoke.
“In this global crisis, it would be unreasonable to expect that they be required to abide by the requirements of the package travel regulations, which were not designed to cope with a disaster affecting every country and every destination worldwide.
“To do so would lead to innumerable company collapses and the loss of many thousands of jobs, which would cost the government dear for many decades to come.”
He added: “We urgently call on government, instead, to invest significantly in the long-term survival of small- and medium-sized tour operators and travel agents by altering the scope of the package travel regulations to enable agents and operators legally to defer planned holidays – or, at least, to refund only monies that suppliers have refunded to them, having first taken a reasonable margin to cover the initial work involved in organising the holiday.”
AITO said it understood the Italian government has already suggested an alternative to the refund requirements of the package travel regulations and that this scheme is being considered by other EU members in order to safeguard the survival of their own leisure travel industries.
Gadhoke concluded: “We need urgent confirmation that our own government is involved in these discussions and that it recognises that speed is absolutely of the essence.”
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