The Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangement Regulations 2018 (The Regulations) is the latest raft of regulatory requirements to hit those in the travel and tourism sector. The industry has already had Brexit, the requirement for all IATA travel agents to become PCI compliant (which came in, in March this year) and the implications of GDPR compliance to contend with this year.
Probably the worst thing about this latest regulation is that it catches more businesses than it sounds, particularly those in the hotel industry as well as those travel providers who do not sell “traditional” package holidays.
Many of the hotel managers and tour providers sat here reading this article will be thinking I don’t sell package holidays this doesn’t apply to me. But many companies in the travel industry who would not have previously had to worry about package holiday regulations may now find themselves within the scope of the legislation. In the ever-increasing competitive market with the rise of OTAs and hotel price comparison websites many hotel providers are looking to expand their offerings and add that USP by adding trips to local gardens, amusement parks, tickets for local attractions and themed holidays with entertainment. Experience and activity holidays have become increasingly popular in recent years and the provision of these additional services may bring businesses within the scope of the Regulations.
The Regulations implement the 2015 European Package Travel Directive into the law of England and Wales and cover package holiday and linked travel arrangements sold after the 1st July 2018. The Regulations contain a number of criminal offences for failure to comply with the various provisions and will be enforced by trading standards and civil claims may also be brought by travellers.
So what are package holidays and linked travel arrangements?
To qualify as a package holiday two or more different types of travel services need to be combined for the purpose of the same trip. Travel services include: (1) carriage of passengers (flights, trains and coaches) (2) accommodation (3) motor vehicle hire; and (4) other tourist services. Other tourist services are services that are not intrinsically part of the transport or accommodation services provided but make up a significant part of the package such as admission to concerts, sports, events, excursions or event parks, guided tours, ski passes and rental of sports equipment or spa treatments. The Regulations set out six different circumstances in which the combination of travel services will constitute a package.
When only one of carriage of passengers, accommodation or motor vehicle hire services are combined with an ‘other tourist service’ this only leads to the creation of a package or a linked travel arrangement if the ‘other tourist service’ is either:
- Advertised as an essential feature of the combination of services, or;
- Accounts for a significant proportion of the value of the combination of services.
The government has said that whether on-site facilities such as a swimming pool or gym included for hotel guests would be considered an intrinsic part of accommodation would depend on the individual circumstances and how the facilities are provided but this is a worrying thought for accommodation providers.
The main protections offered by the Regulations for package holidays are as follows:
- Making the organiser of the holiday liable for the performance of the travel services included in the package (even if the services were performed by a third party and not the organiser) if something goes wrong
- Protection for travellers against the insolvency of the organisers of the package
- Requirements for travel organisers to provide certain detailed information to travellers making it clear what they are buying and the protections they have
The Regulations also place various other obligations on those organising or selling package holidays which providers will need to comply with.
One of the examples the government has given as an example of what could now constitute a package holiday is a situation where a guest books a hotel room at the Disneyland Paris hotel with access to the amusement park included as part of the booking this would be considered a package as entry to the amusement park could not be argued to simply be an intrinsic part of accommodation. Another example given was a traveller booking a room at a hotel with pre-booking for a round of golf as well as the accommodation – this could also be classed as a package holiday. What is worrying about these examples is that many hotel providers are already offering these types of services and will not even be aware they are caught by the Regulations.
Linked Travel Arrangements on the other hand cover situations where there are at least two different travel services purchased for the same trip, the combination does not constitute a package, the traveller has separate contracts with the service providers but the trader selling one of the travel services facilitates the sale of another travel service in one of the ways set out in the Regulations.
A typical example of a Linked Travel Arrangement is where a traveller buys part of their holiday and then are prompted to buy another part via a click-through within 24 hours (for example if an email with a flight confirmation has links to a hotel site which is then booked this is a linked travel arrangement). Linked travel arrangements do not have the same level of protection as package holidays if something goes wrong but travellers will benefit from insolvency protection.
So should you stop selling these types of holidays?
The Regulations do not intend to stop providers selling these types of holidays but they do aim to increase the level of protection for travellers. By no means stop providing these services but do make sure you consider all your products and services and whether or not they could constitute a package or linked travel arrangement and ensure you are aware of the legal implications of this and that your terms and conditions are updated accordingly.
This is a complex area of law and we would advise those who may be affected to seek specialist legal advice to determine whether or not they could be providing package holidays or linked travel arrangements to ensure they are in compliance with the Regulations.