Online travel agents will feel the biggest impact from the “new era of package holidays” set to be ushered in by new package travel regulations, a travel industry lawyer has said.
Rhys Griffiths, partner and head of the travel group at law firm Fieldfisher, said the European Package Travel Directive (PTD) will mean OTAs no longer have a “get-out-of-jail-free-card” to escape regulations.
He also said a new category of Linked Travel Arrangements could flop “and no one will care”.
The UK and other EU member states are required to bring the revised European Package Travel Directive (PTD) into law by January, with companies due to comply from July 2018.
Griffiths told the annual Abta Travel Law Seminar in London on Tuesday: “The definition of a package is significantly expanded. Pretty much everything falls within it.
“If you thought the era of package holidays was over, think again. There are going to be more package holidays than ever.”
He said the biggest impact “will be felt by online travel agents [OTAs]” who will no longer have “a get-out-of-jail-free-card” to escape the regulations.
But Griffiths warned the new category of Linked Travel Arrangements (LTAs) for so-called ‘click-through’ sales between websites – for example, where a consumer buys a flight from one site and clicks a “targeted” link to another to buy accommodation – could prove unworkable.
These bookings will require financial protection against the risk of a trader going bust without the liabilities of a package.
Griffiths said: “As a retailer you will only have to protect the money you receive.” Yet he warned: “There are data protection implications.
“To make an LTA work you are going to have to track customers, share that data with other companies and try to reconcile [the bookings].
“I don’t think anyone is going to do that, and I don’t think anyone will care because no one likes LTAs.”
The industry is still awaiting details from the Department of Business (BEIS) on implementation of the directive.
A consultation had been expected this spring, but was delayed by the general election. It is not now expected till the end of June or even September
Abta director of legal affairs Simon Bunce said: “We had hoped to get some guidance from BEIS.
“We’re running out of time and I’m not confident we’ll get a great deal of clarification. We really do need to see the regulations.”