Frankfurt Mountains, sun, sea: With the increasing relaxation of the corona restrictions, more and more Germans are hoping to be able to go on vacation in the summer despite the corona virus pandemic. After public life has more or less come to a standstill since mid-March, there is now hope for a little bit of normalcy.

The federal states can now decide on their own responsibility to what extent they will gradually allow gastronomy and tourism. In many places, restaurants and inns could open in the next few days. Hotels, holiday apartments and guesthouses are more likely to be in late May. However, it looks like the Germans will soon have more freedom to travel within Germany.

Even discussions about border openings are in full swing. The Federal Government’s Tourism Commissioner, Thomas Bareiß (CDU), believes that despite Covid-19 summer vacation is also possible in many EU countries. “This mainly affects our neighboring countries, such as Austria, France, Belgium, Poland or the Netherlands,” Bareiß told the “Tagesspiegel”. But he would not yet write off other regions in Europe.

From June onwards, the airlines in the Lufthansa Group plan to add more destinations such as Mallorca, Sylt and Crete to their program. The group announced on Friday. However, customers should consider the current entry and quarantine regulations of the respective destinations when planning their trip.

A long-distance trip is still difficult to imagine this year. The worldwide travel warning from the Federal Foreign Office is valid until June 14th. Numerous holiday countries have continued to impose entry restrictions.

What will be after that is open. Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) had already declared a few weeks ago that “a return to international travel cannot happen overnight”. It is also not possible – as happened this spring – to bring countless stranded German citizens back from abroad in the summer.

All easing measures are also constantly checked. If the number of infections increases again, tougher restrictions could quickly return to the agenda. The Robert Koch Institute continues to assess the risk situation in Germany as “high”. Crowds of beaches, sights and old town alleys will probably not be there this summer.

But that a summer vacation somewhere between the Wadden Sea in the north and the Alps in the south is becoming more and more likely – at least in compliance with distance and hygiene rules. As a result, the capacity of vacation rentals will be limited in many places.

If you want to book now, you should note a few points – in the event that your holiday does not work out in the end. Many consumers who have already booked also wonder whether they should be able to start their planned trip or rather cancel it. Overall, however, a lot is currently in flux, so that concluding general statements are difficult to make.

Booking of trips

The holiday planning of German citizens is in full swing: According to the dpa news agency, the German Tourism Association (DTV) is now seeing increasing booking requests, especially for holiday apartments and holiday homes. In view of the signs of easing in travel in Germany, the number should now increase significantly, says DTV Managing Director Norbert Kunz. “We assume that people will want to use this regained piece of freedom after this difficult time.”

The camping association also expects strong demand, especially for the summer months of July and August. “We recommend that campers, if possible, switch to other times and book travel in advance as early as possible,” says Christian Günther, managing director of the Federal Association of the Camping Industry in Germany.

According to the comparison portal Check24, the most popular travel destinations in Germany include the Baltic and North Sea coasts, the Harz, the Allgäu and the Bavarian Forest, followed by the Mecklenburg Lake District, Black Forest, Lake Constance, Spreewald and Saxon Switzerland. In view of the fact that the vast majority of Germans will travel within their home country, it is also worth taking a look at less-visited regions.

Since the federal states operate differently when it comes to the opening of gastronomy and tourism, holidaymakers who want to travel promptly should take a close look at the respective provisions. For example, the hotels in Bavaria will be able to accept guests again from May 30, and the restaurants will open a little earlier. Schleswig-Holstein lifted the entry ban for tourists with effect from May 18.

From May 25th, hotel guests from other federal states can stay in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania again. However, there is a capacity limit of 60 percent. Hotels, guesthouses and youth hostels in Lower Saxony may also be used again if the number of guests is reduced.

When making a booking, consumers should also carefully consider the conditions for a possible cancellation. Because if the number of infections rises again due to the current easing, the restrictions could be tightened again – or it could be that one or the other would rather not travel.

“In the case of new bookings, hosts and guests should make separate agreements before booking in the event that official prohibitions are extended or newly issued,” advises the DTV on its website.

The consumer portal “Finanztip” has looked around for holiday apartments on the Internet and has found the usual cancellation rules in many places. According to them, consumers can cancel free of charge up to about 30 days before arrival. After that, it would usually be expensive.

In some cases, the online portal has also contacted the owners of the holiday apartments directly. The result: Given the circumstances, it was entirely possible to agree with the landlord on a shorter period.

Anyone who regularly books with hotel chains, for example via booking portals such as Booking.com, Expedia or HRS, is used to the fact that rooms can be canceled free of charge up to one day before arrival or even on the day of arrival.

New bookings should also be as flexible as possible for package tours, so that changes in situations can be reacted to at low cost. “And it is particularly important right now to check the security certificate, which partially protects against bankruptcies in package tours,” emphasizes Peter Lassek, lawyer from the Hessen Consumer Center.

In general, it can also make sense to take out travel cancellation insurance for expensive trips. However, consumers should be aware that the insurance only pays if the insured cannot travel for an important and unpredictable reason. This can be an accident or an unexpected illness of the insured, a relative or a fellow traveler.

A look at the small print can also be worthwhile: the Federation of Insureds (BdV) points out that some policies exclude benefits in the wake of pandemics. Anyone who wants to withdraw from the trip because they are only afraid of being infected will not get anything from the insurance anyway.

Cancellation of booked trips

Basically, guests can cancel a trip free of charge if a region is closed due to the corona crisis or rental to tourists is prohibited – at least if they have booked according to German law. Payments made must then be refunded.

However, if consumers want to cancel booked vacation rentals that are only to be used in a few months, they are not yet entitled to a free cancellation. To do this, they first have to wait for the further development of the corona pandemic and possible travel restrictions.

The uncertainty about their travel plans apparently is a problem for the citizens of Germany. In a recent survey by the McKinsey management consultancy among German consumers, 42 percent of the participants stated that they were concerned about their planned vacation. At the end of March, the value was only 30 percent.

If new bans should come into force during the stay at the holiday destination and the holidaymakers have to leave, everyone bears their own costs, according to the DTV: hosts generally remain on their lost income from the rental if no agreement is reached on a rebooking can.

Passengers must bear any additional costs for early departure. “However, hosts are not obliged to reimburse damage – for example, costs for unsuccessful travel or early return travel costs – because they are not at fault,” explains the DTV.

In the past few weeks, the discussions about possible compulsory vouchers, which the federal government had brought into play for canceled package tours and flights, had caused a stir. Such a regulation now seems to be off the table, as the EU Commission also rejects it. As things stand, consumers can request their money back.

Voluntary vouchers are possible. Above all, when it comes to individual travel, consumers should be aware that they could lose money if the provider goes bankrupt. For package tours, payments are protected by compulsory insurance, for which the travel insurance certificate serves as proof.

As for future cancellations of package tours, lawyer Lassek advises consumers to be patient and to wait for the cancellation of the provider. However, if consumers already know that they do not want to start a trip even if it takes place, an early cancellation might make sense: Then only part of the travel price is due. “And if it later turns out that the trip must also be officially canceled, we believe that you can reclaim all the cancellation fees paid,” says the lawyer.

The Federal Association of Consumer Centers (VZBV) is of the opinion that all booked vacation packages abroad that are to take place by the end of August can be canceled free of charge. This applies regardless of the fact that the global travel warning from the Federal Foreign Office is only effective until June 14, the consumer advocates believe.

Consumers could also withhold the remaining payment for such trips, if it can be seen that the organizer’s trip is at risk, it said. Consumer advocates rely on an expert opinion from travel law expert Klaus Tonner and statements from politicians about the lack of opportunities for vacation abroad this summer.

For consumers who want to cancel, it is always advisable to contact the tour operator or the airline directly. Nonetheless, in many cases it is apparently difficult for consumers to get prepayments made back. The consumer advice centers have reported numerous complaints about travel providers.

In a specialty about the corona crisis, “Stiftung Warentest” points out that consumers who have paid by Visa or Mastercard can also use the so-called chargeback procedure and that their money could be reimbursed by the card-issuing bank. If you paid by direct debit, you could instruct your bank to book the money back. But it is better if an agreement with the travel provider works.

More: Tour operators defend questionable cancellation behavior.

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