Holiday vouchers

German tourism industry demands Berlin action

Demanding a 'national regulation' to promote the holiday vouchers: Norbert Fiebig, president of German Travel Industry Association DRV.
FVW Medien/RIM
Demanding a 'national regulation' to promote the holiday vouchers: Norbert Fiebig, president of German Travel Industry Association DRV.

The German government should copy a dozen other EU states by introducing a national scheme promoting vouchers for cancelled holiday bookings after Brussels rejected the plan, tourism leaders are demanding.

In early April, the German government approved a plan for customers whose holidays have been cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic to be given a voucher to book a new holiday of the same value at any time over the next 21 months. If the customer did not use this voucher by December 31, 2021, then the tour operator would be obliged to refund the customer's original payment.

Vouchers instead of repayments

Tour operators then moved quickly to promote this cashflow protection scheme by offering customers financial incentives to accept the vouchers rather than insist on repayments for cancelled bookings.

However, the scheme needed formal approval from Brussels as it contradicted EU law under which tour operators have to refund payments for a cancelled holiday within 14 days of the cancellation.

After weeks without an official response, Didier Reynders, the EU Commissioner for Justice, told German media last week that he did not support the German voucher plan. Consumers should have the right to choose between vouchers and repayments, he said. This meant that vouchers could be voluntary at most but not obligatory.

"Heavy blow for the travel industry"

The German Travel Industry Association (DRV) responded sharply to these comments, describing them as "a defeat for the German government and a heavy blow for the travel industry". Valuable time had been lost during the last few weeks waiting for a response from Brussels, it complained.

The DRV is now demanding that Berlin should follow the example of a dozen other EU states by introducing a 'national regulation' to promote the holiday vouchers which would comply with EU law. "Tour operators and travel agents must be protected against the threat of insolvency," declared DRV president Norbert Fiebig.

Majority of companies in danger of bankruptcy

As many as two tourism companies in three now fear they are threatened by insolvency, according to a DRV survey of some 500 members carried out between April 21 and 24. An overwhelming 80% have already applied for federal or regional financial aid, and 75% of them have introduced short-time working.

"These results show how dramatic the situation is for the travel industry, especially for small and medium-sized travel agents and tour operators," Fiebig said. "It is to be feared that the majority of the 11,000 travel agencies and more than 2,300 tour operators will not survive this existential threat from the corona pandemic.

Tens of thousands of jobs at stake

"Tens of thousands of jobs could be lost if the German government does not quickly set up an umbrella scheme for the industry," he warned.