This week, possibly on Thursday, the Tourism Ministry will pass a legislation through Parliament allowing tourism enterprises to compensate their clients – individuals and tour operators – who have already made down payments for bookings that cannot be followed through due to restrictions in hotel operation and travel, with the issuance of 18-month open-date vouchers.
That issue is of vital significance for tourism companies that are already facing liquidity problems. Albeit understandable, the demand by hotel customers for the return of their deposits has generated tension between them and the hoteliers.
Obviously the clause may only concern the Greek legal framework, and not the jurisdictions of other states where the down payments may originate, but in any case it offers local tourism corporations a negotiating instrument. Italy and other countries have already passed similar clauses, while on the European level there is also a debate regarding the harmonization of practices on these matters.
“The clause was prepared by the Tourism Ministry over the last 15 days with the utmost secrecy; it is compatible with European law and at the same time it provides a solution for the cash flow issues tourism companies are facing as a result of the coronavirus pandemic,” a senior ministry source told Kathimerini.
In practice, for a customer who may have booked a holiday for this Easter, this means that instead of having their money returned, they will get a voucher of the same value which they may use later on another trip – possibly to another destination – taken through the same travel agency or the same tourism company.
In the next few days the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) is expected to provide some best practice examples, such as offering a voucher with a value that is 10 percent above that of the booking for which the deposit has already been paid.
This measure is considered a very important move towards saving the tourism industry in Greece as it eases the payment chain while offering a solution to consumers who may have booked their holidays some time ago, in order that they do not lose their money.
This article was first published in ekathimerini.com