German tour operators including Thomas Cook have backtracked on treating accommodation-only bookings as ‘packages’ under new package travel rules due to legal uncertainty about the practice.
Leading travel groups in Germany, including TUI, Thomas Cook and DER Touristik – which owns UK tour operator Kuoni – decided to offer package protection for room-only bookings from July 1 when the new EU Package Travel Directive came into force.
The bookings were categorised as “voluntary package holidays”, German trade paper FVW reports, with travel agents asked to supply insolvency-insurance certificates to customers making the bookings to comply with the directive’s consumer-information requirements.
These certificates are similar to the ATOL certificates issued in the UK to customers booking package holidays.
The aim was to emphasise the greater level of service and guarantees offered by a dedicated holiday group.
However, travel agents queried the practice since the Package Travel Directive defines a package as “a combination of at least two different types of travel services for the purpose of the same trip or holiday”.
Thomas Cook announced this week that it would halt the practice from September 1.
The group’s managing director in Germany, Stefanie Berk told FVW: “This way we will give our travel agency partners and customers more transparency with bookings of single products.”
However, the company said it would continue to treat customers booking room-only in the same way as those booking full package holidays.
Berk said: “We will offer our customers clear added-value compared to hotel booking platforms and go well beyond the legally compulsory service.”
TUI said it would continue the practice, with a spokesman telling FVW: “How TUI is doing this fully meets legal requirements.”
DER Touristik said it was reviewing the situation.
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