Berlin The German Travel Association (DRV) has reacted sharply to government plans for voluntary travel vouchers in the corona crisis. “The cabinet’s decision simulates an act of the federal government that is not there in reality. This is a pseudo-solution that does not solve the problems of the travel industry, ”said DRV President Norbert Fiebig.
Vouchers would have little acceptance. “Tour operators must therefore continue to refund money to the majority of their customers, money that simply does not exist,” complained Fiebig. The tour operators’ coffers are empty.
According to the DRV, this amounts to a volume of six billion euros. “The cancellations are also pulling the ground away from the travel agencies,” said Fiebig.
For weeks, the industry has been asking politicians to do something about these existential liquidity shortages. “The federal government seems to have no plan at all,” criticized the DRV president. “We are being sent from one queue to the next.” This is how bankruptcies and the loss of many jobs are programmed, warned Fiebig.
The Federal Cabinet decided on Wednesday morning key points for a voluntary voucher solution to mitigate the corona consequences for the package travel industry. The Federal Government is thus responding to recommendations from the European Commission.
The core of the plans is that the vouchers should be fully secured against possible insolvency of the travel company. This creates a “real incentive to opt for vouchers instead of paying back the deposit if the trip has to be canceled due to the corona pandemic,” said Consumer Protection Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD).
Specifically, for trips that were booked before March 8, 2020 and cannot be carried out due to the pandemic, the government plans that tour operators can offer package travelers vouchers for later vacation packages instead of the immediate reimbursement of advance payments. “In the first step, the vouchers are covered by the previous insurance and, in the event that the insurance is insufficient, also by a state guarantee of up to 100 percent of the value,” explained Lambrecht. “The vouchers thus guarantee the full value of the reimbursement claim even in the event of the tour operator becoming insolvent.”
Travel industry calls for “credit funds” for tour operators
Lambrecht also emphasized that the vouchers are voluntary. The travelers could reject the voucher and thus retained their “immediate reimbursement claim”. If the voucher is not redeemed by the end of 2021 at the latest, the value in the amount of the original travel price must be paid out.
Lambrecht appealed to the travelers to choose a voucher. In doing so, they made an “important contribution to maintaining the diversity of offers and services in the travel sector,” emphasized the Minister.
A draft law is now being drawn up on the basis of the key points. “For the specific needs of the industry, the federal government is also striving for a swift solution that enables the existing aid programs to be used,” said Lambrecht.
The Vice-President of the Union parliamentary group, Thorsten Frei (CDU), praised the cabinet decision as “the first step towards the much-needed relief for the travel industry”.
“Our goal must be to protect tour operators and travel agencies so that bankruptcies are avoided as much as possible,” said Frei. For this reason, the cabinet also decided that the federal government and the coalition groups would like to reach an agreement by June to provide aid for tour operators and travel agencies. “We are very aware of the dramatic and often existential situation of the more than 10,000 travel agencies and 2000 tour operators in Germany,” Frei assured.
The German travel association asked the federal government to add a “credit fund” to the voluntary vouchers, from which the travel agencies can finance the reimbursement of commissions for canceled trips and the tour operators can service the customers’ repayment claims. “Only the combination of voluntary vouchers and credit funds can now secure the liquidity of the companies,” said DRV President Fiebig. The federal financial risk is manageable: the companies could gradually return the amounts to the fund.
More: Vouchers immediately, repayments later: Read here how airlines leave their customers hanging.