The tourism and leisure travel sector is one of the most advanced sectors in Cyprus. Travelers around the world mostly prefer to book their holidays online, a concept which likewise applies when travelling to our island. Travel companies provide a wide range of tourist services at an inclusive price; the so-called “packages” i.e. tickets plus accommodation plus car rental services etc.
The new developments in the area of package travel, holidays, tours and related matters, brought about by the European Directive (EU) 2015/2302 on Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements (the “Directive”) were introduced in Cyprus by Law No. 186(I)/2017 on Package Travel and Associated Travel Arrangements (the “Law”), which aims to achieve a high level of consumer protection, particularly for travelers, in relation to their contracts with travel services traders, both in the context of package travel and of associated travel arrangements (the “ATAs”). In essence, the Law, which came into force on the 1st of July 2018, abolished the pre-existing domestic legislation on package travel, holidays, tours and related matters and generally harmonised national law with the Directive.
The Law provides more certainty and transparency with regards to ATAs; ATAs refer to the situation where a traveller after purchasing his ticket from a retailer’s website is invited to “click” on a link leading to another trader’s website, in order to book extra related services i.e. book a hotel or rent a car. As a result of the provisions of the Law on ATAs, consumers are not faced with the problem of not knowing where to address their complaint for the provided services due to the fact that they have concluded separate contracts with separate service-providers. The Law forces retailers offering ATAs to explain to travellers in a clear and prominent manner who is to be liable and for what, with the effect that each service provider is responsible for the correct performance of his related services. Also, in the context of ATAs, the Law provides travellers with the right to a refund of prepayments and, where relevant, to repatriation in case of an insolvency of the service provider. As a result, travellers are now faced with a more-straightforward route to compensation.
Importantly, the Law extends consumer protection in relation to package travel to other forms of travel services, apart from the traditional travel packages, and it also enshrines, amongst other things, provisions relating to the information that travelers should have regarding their travel packages and their rights in respect of cancellations, refunds, changes in agreed prices, assignment and termination of contracts, insolvency of organizers and repatriation. The businesses operating within the field of travel services are also expected to benefit from the Law, since, on the one hand, there is going to be a uniform legislative framework throughout the EU, mutual recognition of the protection of insolvency between businesses selling competitive products in the member states, and on the other hand, cross-border transactions are expected to be better facilitated.
In general, the provisions of the Law embrace and fulfill travelers’ needs and requirements in the new digital age and undoubtedly assist travel companies which are already selling their services online or consider offering those services online to their clients. Inevitably, travelers are most definitely afforded with more confidence and are provided with a sense of security and buoyance whilst planning and on-line booking their holidays, without the underlying fear that once and if something goes wrong, they will not be in a clear position to contact that “single” person who will be held liable and will in fact give them the assistance, guidance and/or compensation owed. As a result of the provisions of the Law, as explained above, travelling and tourism will be positively affected and expected to flourish all around Europe and especially in Cyprus, which is undoubtedly a popular holiday spot.
For more information on the Directive (EU) 2015/2302 on Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements, read our previous more elaborative article on it.