The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) have now released its response to its 2017 consultation on Updating Consumer Protection in the Package Travel Sector which details how it intends to implement the requirements of the new 2015 EU Package Travel Directive (PTD) by the 1 July 2018 deadline.
Not unsurprisingly the Directive and the debate surrounding implementation has focused largely on international travel and especially on outbound travel from he UK. The regulation of course also has implications for those arranging inbound travel and increasingly potentially unintended and arguably unnecessarily onerous implications for the internal domestic UK tourism market.
The new regulation tightens existing consumer protection for those purchasing travel packages and, in particular, creates a new category of package: the LTA. The concept of LTAs (Link Travel Arrangements) will bring a number of existing, largely online, sales models under the scope of the directive.
From the point of view of the domestic market and destination based UK tourism our focus, alongside that of colleagues in the Tourism Alliance, has been on removing small-scale domestic, “added value products”, from the scope of the new directive. I.E. an accommodation provider offering a bed plus say a round of golf, a local event or theatre ticket, a meal in the local pub or a guided tour. Currently a combination of any two elements from within travel, accommodation or, “other tourism service”, is deemed to form a package and therefore any accommodation provider offering any significant third-party other tourism service probably should be adhering to the relatively onerous requirements of the directive. The inclusion of LTAs in the regulation; essentially recommending but not necessarily taking the payment for other’s products, may well now bring some other accommodation provider’s current practices under the scope of the new regulations. There are also conceivably implications for destinations that sell local products online on behalf of local businesses. In some circumstances individual products could be deemed to be linked arrangements, for example, are accommodation and event or attraction tickets sold separately on the same site a linked product?
The Tourism Alliance approach was to argue for a sunset clause that would remove small-scale, local added value products, where no transport was involved, from the directive once we leave the EU. The approach was fatally flawed only because the UK Government can’t assume anything in law about the UK leaving the EU until that is agreed and implemented (a putting the carts before the horse situation). Subsequently the debate then switched to what is deemed to be “significant” in terms of any additional tourism service offered. This aspect isn’t mentioned in the response, partly I assume because it was subsequent to the consultation period and is in any case still the subject of ongoing discussions.
BEIS appear sympathetic to the arguments presented for the domestic market and their response offers to review the position again after implementation: “…….BEIS, alongside the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport will keep the issue under review, taking stock after six and twelve months of the Regulations’ operation. We remain open to discussion with the Tourism Alliance and its members on ways to ensure that costs to them are kept as low as possible”.
The full Government response can be accessed at: 2018 Package Travel Directive Government Response It’s a dry old read but worth scanning if you have time or a particular interest in the detail. For everyone else paragraphs 13 and 14 dealing with the definition of LTAs, 16 on implementation and with effect from dates and 22 with the domestic market comment will probably suffice.
The full EU directive can be accessed here.