Those of us working within the Travel Industry (there are those who think that HolidayTravelWatch is not part of the Industry - oh well!) have since 2005, commented on the growth of the so-called DIY or Dynamically Packaged Holiday and the threat to Consumer Rights. For our part, we have illustrated very clearly to the UK Government and the EU Commission the real detriment being suffered, not just by British Holidaymakers, but also by other EU Citizens! For the last 2 years the EU Commission has been building up a body of information through consultations and surveys and it was expected that from this autumn through to the spring 2010, they would announce their proposals for a revised Package Travel Directive.
Now we read that the Commission is announcing yet another consultation, to be launched in October or November 2009! Within the Travel Weekly article (28/8/09), the EU Commissioner for Consumer Affairs (Mrs Kuneva) spokeswoman, highlighted the fact that over 50% of holidays taken are now taken through the so-called DIY method and that apparently 'package holiday companies are telling us they are being penalised' by the changes to the marketing model!
What was more concerning was the same spokeswoman raised the prospect that the new Package Travel Directive might be 'loosened for those currently required to comply with them'!
What on earth happened to the major study and report submitted by the EU Parliament to the EU Commission (this is the report that got the Travel Industry hot under the collar!)? Are the parliamentarians comments and recommendations no longer valid?
Fogive me for saying this, but aren't these same Package Travel Companies also endeavouring to 'de-package' the travel market through their own web portals through their 'flights & hotels' tabs, which sit conspicuously alongside the 'package holidays' tab? Is this not open hypocracy?
As I stated openly to the ETOA Conference last November, the 'elephant in the room is the airlines'! They are the ones who have apparently revolutionised the travel market - the Travel Industry have given up trying to persuade those authorities that it is the airlines who should also be brought into line; the 'Authorities' seemingly lack the courage to level this market inbalance and bring all into the Package Travel equation!
I must warn the Commission; do not be swayed by this intense lobbying which has the support of large wads of money, do not be swayed by so-called economic crisis considerations (that we must support industry whatever the cost!), do not be swayed by the 'financial protection' lobby (important as this is, it is but one aspect of Consumer Protection)!
Judging by our e mails and telephone calls, the Consumer Detriment of 2009 is no less than that suffered in previous years. This is a point that the EU Commission must not forget!
Consumers should not underestimate the intense lobbying power of this industry - if they are successful and you suffer injury, illness or have any other holiday complaints, the new 'Package' Travel Directive may offer you no comfort when you try to resolve your complaints!
Of course there will be those out there who will cite the Unfair Trading Regulations (the son of the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive) as being the natural successor to The Package Travel Directive! Well, I challenge the Office of Fair Trading and Trading Standards Departments to prove to us and Consumers, that you even understand, let alone enforce this regulation against holiday companies (I sincerely doubt that anyone will rise to the challenge)! I said at the time of the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive review, that it was not really set up to deal with holiday complaints - the only true route to ensuring that tourism remains sustainable and that Consumers are protected, is to incorporate into law, a stronger and universally applicable Package Travel Directive! Let's hope the EU Commissioner recognises that simple fact!
So to all Consumers out there, if you don't make your voice heard, you will lose these valuable and hard fought rights!