1. What are the mandatory requirements?
European Package Travel Directive
The European Package Travel Directive protects European travellers’ rights when they book package holidays. Amendments made in 2018 take account of changing booking methods among travel consumers. The Directive expanded the definition of package travel to include customised packages and linked travel arrangements as follows:
- A package holiday is defined as a combination of at least two different types of travel services, such as transport, accommodation or a tourist service, such as a trip to a historical attraction. All elements of the package holiday are booked and paid for through one agent at the same time.
- Linked travel arrangements are travel services bought in different contracts over a 24-hour period and are linked to the same package.
The broadening of the concept of travel package aims to provide clearer information for travellers on the sort of travel product they are buying and the corresponding level of protection. In particular, the new concept of linked travel arrangements ensures that payments are protected in case the seller goes bankrupt. The update also creates stronger cancellation rights, requires clear liability arrangements and applies to online bookings.
European tour operators will expect you to have liability insurance and insolvency protection in compliance with the European Package Travel Directive. You must be able to provide full details of your insurance policies.
Tour operators outside the European Union are not legally bound by the European Package Travel Directive, but European operators will expect their foreign suppliers to have relevant liability insurance in place so they can make sure that their customers are protected according to the Directive.
All European tour operators must have their own liability insurance for damages caused by third parties to ensure they comply with the European Package Travel Directive. Some operators, like TUI, require potential suppliers to indicate the extent of coverage provided by their own liability insurance. In most cases, suppliers are required to have the appropriate level of liability insurance.
If you sell tours or packages directly to European travellers, they will also expect you to have comprehensive liability insurance so they are fully covered while under your care.
Liability insurance for tour operators usually has three areas of coverage:
- Third-party or public liability covers bodily injury and property damage to customers in your care.
- Contingent auto liability is additional auto liability over and above local compulsory automobile insurance for owned, hired and non-hired vehicles.
- Contingent watercraft liability covers owned, hired and non-owned watercrafts with motors that carry paying passengers. Local tour operators wishing to work with cruise lines are required by the cruise lines to have excursion insurance.
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
The EU adopted the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2016 to replace the 1995 Data Protection Directive, which had been adopted when the internet was still in its infancy. Fully recognised as law across the EU in May 2018, GDPR better protects people’s privacy, expressly referencing personal data storage, processing and sharing. Personal data includes name, address, email address, bank details, social media data, passport information, biometrics, online identifiers, such as an IP address, among other data. The purpose of GDPR is to give persons in the EU more power over where and how their personal data is stored and used.
The UK will still need to comply with similar rules to the GDPR if and when it exits the EU. The British Data Protection Act 2018 supplements the GDPR in the UK.
2. What additional requirements do buyers often have?
Code of conduct
European tour operators seek professional and reliable suppliers. To protect their brand image of proficient, accountable organisations, European tourism businesses effectively provide the services they agreed with their customers, including taking responsibility for them. Consequently, many European tour operators will have their own code of conduct, which they require their suppliers to comply with.
Professionalism and reputation
Meeting the needs of customers is of paramount importance to European tour operators, which continually monitor satisfaction ratings. Travellers like to feel protected and safe when they book a trip or excursion. They rely heavily on word-of-mouth recommendations, social media commentary and review platforms, such as TripAdvisor. Many European travellers are keen to share their experiences on these platforms, whether good or bad, and negative reviews naturally affect the European tour operators’ reputation.
Sustainability and environmental protection are hot topics in every industry around the world. In tourism, travelling sustainably has become a very important issue in recent years. Increasing numbers of travellers are concerned about their carbon footprint and seeking ways of minimising the environmental impact of their travels. However, sustainability in tourism is a broad concept. The World Tourism Organization defines sustainable tourism as ‘tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.’
The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) establishes and manages global sustainable standards known as GSTC Criteria, for industry and destinations. Their industry criteria set the guiding principles and minimum requirements for tour operators and hotels, including natural resources protection and sustainability. The GSTC Criteria are strongly connected to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a UN call to action to promote global prosperity while protecting the planet. Tourism is widely recognised as a key sector in the challenge of meeting the 17 SDGs.
Responsible tourism is strongly linked to sustainable tourism. Much like sustainability, responsible tourism has become an important issue affecting the industry in such areas as the protection of children, wildlife preservation, environmental protection and overtourism.
Many European tour operators have signed up to The Code, an industry-driven initiative to fight against the sexual exploitation of children in tourism. Suppliers are often required to adhere to The Code’s standards, which usually includes a zero-tolerance approach throughout the supply chain. Visits to orphanages in developing countries have been recently singled out after many reported cases of children being purposefully kept in poor conditions, denied food, clothing and other essentials to attract more money from visitors. In reaction, a growing number of European tour operators have been removing trips to orphanages from their itineraries altogether.
Conserving wildlife through responsible tourism has also become an important issue for the industry. Wildlife tourist attractions that offer close animal interactions such as touching, cuddling and riding animals are considered negative to the animals’ welfare and species conservation. Responsible European tour operators will expect their suppliers to not promote practices that negatively affect animal welfare and conservation efforts.
Overtourism happen when too many visitors go to a particular destination. This has negative impacts on the environment and destination, as well on the local quality of life of people and wildlife. European tour operators are increasingly aware of the negative impacts of overtourism, especially because many European destinations are classic examples of overtourism. It is important that you understand the impact of overtourism on your destination and take measures to mitigate them, including diverting visitors to alternative sites or encouraging travel in different seasons.