The World Travel & Tourism Council has urged the UK government and EU authorities to implement exceptional flexibility around consumer refunds.
The private sector body argues the move will alleviate the unbearable pressure on the tourism sector as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Research conducted by WTTC shows that one million tourism jobs are now being lost in the UK, with at least 6.4 million across the EU and a staggering 75 million globally due to the outbreak.
WTTC, which represents the global tourism private sector, says that increasing flexibility will have a profound effect on reducing the intense financial strain being experienced by the majority of tour operators and travel agents, online and offline.
The outfit is calling for EU governments to show exceptional flexibility around the existing package travel requirements, which are not fit for purposes in the current crisis and should be suspended at least until August.
Consumer protection will be unaffected, but travel agents and tour operators will have more time to refund those customers choosing to cancel their existing bookings.
The current 14-day timeline for refunds is putting enormous burdens on businesses in the tourism sector and will lead to major bankruptcies.
These, in turn, will lead to more claims by consumers on credit card firms and ultimately government bonded schemes.
Gloria Guevara, WTTC chief executive, said: “This measure should be implemented immediately and help lift the already crushing financial pressure on tourism organisations and save the millions of livelihoods that depend on them.”
AITO and ABTA have made similar calls for leniency.
ABTA chief executive, Mark Tanzer, has previously explained: “The package travel regulations will continue to protect customers’ pre-payments, as they always have done.
“But government intervention is required to enable travel companies to continue to operate through a period of unprecedented crisis, and to provide emergency support to customers.
“Two immediate steps we have asked government for are to allow companies to refund customers over a defined period, during which their payment is protected, and to establish an emergency fund for customers where travel companies cannot recoup the customers’ money from their suppliers.
“Only with these government interventions will we be able to continue to protect the customer interests, and avoid a short term run on travel companies which will trigger failures and delay refunds getting to customers.”
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