“As travel industry we must think outside the box because the travel industry builds bridges,” with these words the President of the German Travel Association (DRV), Norbert Fiebig, opened the 68th DRV Annual Meeting in the Italian Reggio di Calabria within the framework of his keynote speech. “This is why we have placed our meeting under the motto ‘Think Global!’ and deal with the manifold political and economic framework conditions.” The world is changing, and solutions cannot be found in a solo action and by getting lost in detail. He stressed that smart political and structural economic solutions are necessary instead. “This requires a broad horizon, international co-operation, a mutual understanding and stable, functioning networks,” says Fiebig and rejected all national single-handed approaches and populist mindsets.
Relevance of tourism for development aid
Tourism has a high significance in terms of development aid. This was underlined by the presence of the Federal Minister for Economic Co-operation and Development, Dr. Gerd Müller. “As the only industry worldwide tourism basically offers all states economic opportunities and hence helps to effectively fight the causes for fleeing,” Fiebig emphasised.
The impact to be expected from Brexit
“Brexit involves many uncertainties for the people and the business community on both sides of the Channel,“ Fiebig stated. He pointed out that many issues are still unsettled with a view to the impact on the travel industry. “Of course, we are committed to ensuring that the restrictions to be expected from Brexit will be as low as possible,” Fiebig continues. DRV is in favour of a broad alignment of the regulatory framework so that the tourism business between the EU and the UK can continue with as little obstruction as possible.
Moreover, Martin Schulz, the former President of the European Parliament and a speaker at the meeting, explained in his speech how in times of Brexit and increasing nationalisation the open society can be defended.
100 days of new travel law – not jeopardising what has been achieved
“It has become – as could be expected – a bureaucratic monster,” the DRV President commented on the new travel law which has been in force since 1 July. The fact that the implementation was not staged smoothly did not come as a surprise: “The new law is so complex and so bureaucratic that it is lacking in practical relevance in everyday practice in many respects.” Moreover, Fiebig warned against exaggerated expectations concerning an evaluation, since consumer protection is in Brussels even more relevant than in Berlin. Fiebig: “We must ensure by all means that we do not have an even heavier burden placed on us and do not lose what we have achieved so far!” This addressed the sale of individual services in a travel agency without the latter coming within the sphere of organiser liability. This should not be jeopardised.
The vacation tax must go!
The vacation tax, which has recently been described by the Federal Government Commissioner for Tourism, Thomas Bareiß, as “absurdity” often results in tax ratios of 60, 80 and 90% and hence to enormous burdens for the tour operator. “The addition of trade tax to hotel services has a strong competition distorting effect, because hotel portals are, for instance, not subject to this tax,” Fiebig explains. He pointed out that, moreover, one-third of the German tour operators would have to relocate to foreign countries – with disastrous consequences for the industry, jobs and Germany as business location. “We therefore demand: the vacation tax must go!” Even if the judgement of the financial court Düsseldorf is an important milestone on the way to a reliable solution, the industry campaign “No to the vacation tax” was continued in Reggio di Calabria as a Twitter activity. The court shared in its judgement of 24 September the opinion of the industry, that hotel purchases should not be added to the trade tax.
European class action brings adversity from Brussels
“The class action opens the door for organised abuse. We, therefore, expect the Federal Government to act accordingly on the EU level,” Fiebig stated in respect of the plans of the European Commission to introduce a class action for damages. He pointed out that the travel industry has provably satisfied customers. The number of complaints for tour operator trips is below 2% and the number of cases which are actually dealt with by courts is even in the lower per thousand area, since most problems are directly settled on site. “This is practised consumer protection,” Fiebig stressed. He added that anyway sufficient tools for the collective implementation of consumer interests are available in Germany with the standard class action law suits becoming effective on 1 November.
The DRV President welcomed, however, the draft of the Federal Ministry of Justice for a law to strengthen fair competition with which the massively spreading abuse of warning letters is to be avoided. “For weeks we have been concerned at DRV by a series of warning letters sent to travel agencies. We take legal action against them as DRV – in order to protect the travel agencies,” Fiebig added.
Printed price sections should be abolished
With the printed price sections inserted into the holidays catalogues with million print runs, the DRV President addressed a topic which is not understandable for reasons of sustainability and environmental protection or the changing business and communication processes in times of digitalisation. “Nobody needs them – neither the consumers nor the travel agencies,” Fiebig explained. “Around 3,000 tons of paper – this corresponds, if one places the pages next to one another, after all to 3,500 football pitches – are printed for the price sections every year and driven around. In order to then transfer them without having been used to the waste paper container,” Fiebig stressed. The most recent case law saw an infringement of duties of information under competition law if the concrete travel price is not shown. According to DRV, the breaking down of the different price variants in printed form is neither necessary within the meaning of price transparency nor for legal reasons because the customers receive prior to their booking either from the travel agency or the tour operator the up-to-date price information or can find the corresponding information on the internet. “In times of digitalisation everything is changing – the processes, the business models, communication – but the printed price section is to remain? Yes – I know of course that three German or European laws would have to be amended if it were abolished. Well, then this has to happen! So that we do not continue to happily print price sections for another 10 years which nobody needs already today,” the DRV President stated with annoyance.