Bundestag decides travel vouchers

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DAid is decided and all but the donor are dissatisfied is rare. But when the Bundestag decided on Thursday to create a regulation for vouchers instead of reimbursements for trips canceled in the Corona crisis, there was criticism not only from the opposition, but also from the travel industry. Too late and not enough for tourism companies, the decision criticized FDP, Greens and Leftists.

Timo Kotowski

Tour operators who have to pay back money due to a corona-related package holiday can offer their customers a voucher as an alternative after the decision. The aim of this is to help companies so that they do not have to pay back money from their now scarce liquid assets. However, customers can still insist on a cash reimbursement of the paid travel price. The EU Commission had considered the original government plan for vouchers that exclude reimbursement to be contrary to European law.

What is new about the regulation is that the vouchers are secured by the state against loss of value. If a tour operator registers for bankruptcy before redeeming the vouchers, the federal government will step in if necessary. Tour operators must already have protection for customer money received, but insurers can cover this coverage to 110 million euros a year. This upper limit had proven too low in the Thomas Cook bankruptcy to pay off all those affected.

Good solution or wrong signal?

The SPD MP Karl-Heinz Brunner spoke of a “good, compromise and socially secure solution”. Union politician Thorsten Frei saw a solution to an insolvency wave among travel agencies and tour operators so that “structures that had not been tried and tested and built up over decades were destroyed.” Roman Müller-Böhm criticized for the FDP that the decision was only made almost four months after the pandemic Stop traveling come. “The solution could have been decided in week one of the crisis.”

The Greens MP Markus Tressel doubted that customers still want to get involved in vouchers because consumers’ confidence in financial difficulties has waned due to hesitant repayments by companies in the meantime. One reason is that the federal government wanted to enforce compulsory vouchers that were too long, which failed due to the EU Commission. The coalition had sent a “fatal signal” that it wanted to make consumers a bank for travel companies and wanted to take responsibility for itself.

The travel industry, which the voucher solution is intended to help, also doubts its effect. “The aid from the federal government is like a soufflé. At first glance they look great. But as soon as you prick it in, the hot air escapes and the opulent structure collapses, ”said Norbert Fiebig, President of the German Travel Association (DRV). Experience to date has shown that only 10 to 20 percent of consumers accept vouchers. This would not solve the liquidity needs of the industry.

Reminded of further help

The industry was also displeased that the government plan was changed the evening before the Bundestag decision. For the state protection of the vouchers that are supposed to help companies, a guarantee premium has now been striven for, which the companies should pay. According to reports, this is due to concerns from Brussels, the EU Commission is said to have indicated that the protection without consideration from the companies may be regarded as an unauthorized subsidy.

FDP man Müller-Böhm criticized the lack of further support. “It was always said that vouchers are just one component of the help. But where are the second and third building blocks? I don’t see them. ”Like the FDP, the Greens had called for a state fund instead of vouchers, which was to pre-finance customer money reimbursements and which the travel companies would replenish after the crisis. “In our view, the rescue fund is not off the table,” said Tressel. It is wrong to believe that the recent stimulus package has done enough for the travel industry, which has been particularly hard hit by the crisis.

Subdued vacation demand

Coalition, however, refers to readjustments in the package. For example, travel agencies are likely to claim commissions for travel agencies that they did not receive because of the travel cancellations, for their need for help, and tour operators also failed margins. A hardship clause also means that aid for small businesses is not capped at 15,000 euros, but can flow up to 150,000 euros.

After the end of the travel warnings for other European countries, industry data show that there is again a demand for trips abroad. According to data from the tourism analysts TDA, 26 percent of bookings in travel agencies and online portals on Spanish islands, 21 percent in Greece. However, demand is still subdued. Current bookings were only for around a quarter of the previous year’s level. The German Travel Association fears sales of up to 20 billion euros for the full year.

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