The Package Travel Directive (PTD) stands as a pivotal piece of legislation within the European Union, carrying profound implications for the tourism and travel industry. It serves an indispensable function in guaranteeing consumer protection, laying out clear regulations and guidelines for travel operators. It mandates them to offer precise and transparent information pertaining to travel packages, inclusive of pricing, incorporated services, cancellation policies, and additional fees.
In 2022, the World Travel and Tourism Council identified the commencement of Tourism recovery in Europe, underpinned by its economy’s 28% rebound. This recovery was further reinforced by a 23.9% increase in international visitor expenditure, supplemented by 34.2% in revenue from domestic tourists. Notwithstanding the growth in travel, consumer complaints and disputes within the travel sector have emerged as a notable concern. The European Consumer Center Network disclosed that in 2020, travel services comprised a substantial portion of consumer grievances, accentuating the necessity for robust consumer protection regulations. In addition, numerous stakeholders have expressed their apprehension regarding the European Commission’s intention to place a 20% limitation on pre-payments, accenting the drawbacks of such a policy measure for both package organizers and consumers. The EC is also considering the inclusion of corporate travel under this proposal, with some operators highlighting the need for universal accountability in relation to reimbursements.
The PTD is crucial in cultivating consumer trust, but equally important is its role in safeguarding Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). By fortifying consumer rights through this directive, it would assuredly attract more travellers, both domestically and internationally. This could invigorate tourism revenues and generate a plethora of opportunities through job creation. As one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations, Portugal could see a significant increase in both domestic and international tourism revenues.
It is plausible that transparent pricing and comprehensive information furnished under the directive could also promote price competition among travel operators. This appears to stimulate fair pricing practices and spur innovation. The anticipation is that efficacious enforcement of the directive could counter fraudulent activities and enhance consumer confidence in online bookings. This could stimulate growth in the digital travel market and propagate economic gains through increased online transactions.
The European Commission, in its 2022 work programme, announced its intent to revise the PTD. Hence, this could take place in the fourth quarter of 2023.
In the Tourism Task Force at the European Parliament, we (EPP) have already allocated significant attention to the calendar to bring this particular package into discussion and initiate the formulation of our proposals.
The lessons gleaned from previous events, such as the Covid-19 pandemic and Thomas Cook’s insolvency, impel us to perform a thorough analysis of whether the existing regulatory framework, inclusive of insolvency protection, is still apt in ensuring that consumer protection objectives are sufficiently robust.
The TTF must assume a central role in achieving agreements and formulating proposals that will facilitate a competitive and consumer-friendly travel market. This should be balanced with unequivocal and transparent support to SMEs to ensure that their contribution to European economic growth can become a fair reality.