Online travel agents have been urged to oppose planned changes to the European package travel rules or risk being legislated out of existence.
The future of European rules governing the sale of package travel will be debated at a session at next week’s Abta Travel Convention in Turkey.
Writing on his blog this week, one of the panellists in that debate, Steve Endacott, chief executive of the On Holiday Group, claims the association is split down the middle.
He says the big traditional tour operators are happy with suggestions from Brussels that officials will use the redrafting of the Package Travel Directive to tighten up the rules.
But Endacott claims this will effectively outlaw the new Flight-Plus Atol regime the UK brought in in April and leave agents at a huge disadvantage.
He fears if Europe gets its own way, any agents dynamic packaging will simply not be able to compete with suppliers selling direct and customers putting together their own trips via Google.
Endacott said: “The key point being missed by the Eurocrats is that the internet has fundamentally changed how holidays are purchased over the last ten years and going back to the ‘good old days’ of all holidays being sold as packages is just not an option.
“If they impose these regulations on travel agents it will kill their ability to compete on price with DIY holidays put together via Google as it will increase costs by around £20 per person.”
Endacott argues that the proposed changes in Europe, the scope of which will not be formally known until a white paper is published next March is another example of legislators looking to further regulate the fragmented and therefore ‘weaker’ travel agency community.
“Do the Eurocrats intend bringing Google into the scope? I doubt it, yet Google is the main tool used by customers to create holidays,” he said.
Abta has set up a members’ working party to discuss the UK trade’s response to the changes in European legislation on which Endacott sits.
Joining Endacott on the panel debating European package travel legislation next week will be Abta’s head of legal Simon Bunce, Andy Cooper, Thomas Cook director of government and external affairs and Chris Photi, senior partner at accountancy firm Whitehart Associates.