The head of Europe’s travel agents’ and tour operators’ group in Brussels described proposals for a revised Package Travel Directive as “a half full bottle of wine” yesterday.

ECTAA secretary general Michel de Blust told Abta’s Travel Convention in Dubrovnik: “There is a lot of a dissatisfaction in Europe over the text.

“But in defence of EU civil servants, they were asked to go from the bronze age to the digital age in four years. I look at it as a half bottle of wine.”

Abta head of legal services Simon Bunce agreed: “There is a lot of work to be done on the Package Travel Directive.”

Proposals for a revise directive were published in July.

Bunce pointed out: “If you’re already in the scope of the directive, this is a pretty good piece of work. If you are dragged into it for the first time you are likely to have a different view.

“But this directive is not pushing anyone to do business in a particular way. It’s saying if you do business in this way, these will be the repercussions.”

However, chief executive and Abta board member Richard Downs said: “There are areas of massive uncertainty about who is in and who is not.

“The area where the EC has got it massively wrong is on the Assisted Travel Arrangement (ATA).”

Downs said: “If you want to bring in the online travel agents then you have to bring in the meta search engines and the big daddy of them, Google.”

He suggested: “This will raise prices by £30-£40 a head. You’re talking about additional risks and the biggest risk is fulfillment.”

TravLaw senior partner Stephen Mason told the panel: “It is not like the situation now is perfect.

“We are not moving from certainty to confusion. So much is sold outside the [existing] package directive. There is confusion now.

“I had a case days ago where a well-known OTA had bid for the term ‘package’ on Google. The judge ruled the sale should be a package.”

Tui Travel distribution and online director Nick Longman insisted: “If a travel agent wants to be treated as a travel agent they should act as a travel agent.

“If they want to act as a tour operator they should be treated as a tour operator.”