Destination and Policy Update

April 2020

Since our last update the spread of COVID-19 has had an unprecedented effect on the European tourism industry and our thoughts go to all our members during this difficult time. We appreciate members who have contacted us either individually, through our working groups or member surveys to communicate industry impact.

Building on your insights and discussion with partners we are developing website content and a programme of webinars focusing on crisis impact, support and recovery plans for origin markets and destinations.

Cancellation rights and refunds are a top priority. We have been arguing for flexibility, and for a government response in respect of the large floats of operator funds intended for national museum tickets. For consumer refunds, see the Package Travel section below.

In addition to response to COVID-19, this update includes information about Oberammergau Passion Play, Alhambra, Auschwitz, guiding and VMR in Amsterdam and Venice landing contribution.

The biannual ETOA Group Tourism working group will take place on 22 April 2020 via conference call. We will focus on COVID-19 information sharing, members’ analysis of impact and provide a forum to discuss initiatives around recovery planning. If you work with group tourism and would like to participate, please contact policy@etoa.org.

We recently surveyed tour guides about the Tour Guide ID service and its usability in 2019. We will use the results to improve and develop the service for this year and 2021. If you have any comments or ideas, please contact tourguide@etoa.org.

COVID-19

 

What ETOA is doing

– ETOA is part of a stakeholder group in Brussels which includes UNWTO; European Commission; other trade associations, e.g. hotels, cruise, airlines and travel agents. Input from our members (surveys, anecdotal reports, working groups) is used by the group and have influenced the initial financial rescue plan.

– We are also in direct contact with national governments lobbying for financial support, NTOs/DMOs and visitor attractions

– A page has been published on our website providing links to a range of official information from the European Commission, national governments (including all EEA countries) and public bodies. The links to information include:

  • Financial help for businesses from governments and how to apply
  • Official health guidance
  • Official travel advice on cross-border travel restrictions which will also communicate when travel restrictions are lifted when decided. Please note this may be gradual as each European government may adopt a phased approach to re-opening to prevent a spike in cases.

– As above, we are planning webinars focusing on crisis impact, support and recovery plans for origin markets and destinations. If you are interested in contributing content or discussing our webinar programme, please contact us.

 

Policy

 

Coach tourism working group

The first meeting was held this week to discuss industry impact from COVID-19 and set the agenda for future meetings. The group has been set up to examine coach issues across Europe such as new regulations or city plans introduced and how we can influence policy makers on a European, National and Local/City level going forward. If you would like further information and potentially join the working group (all meetings will be via conference call), please contact policy@etoa.org.

Package Travel Directive (PTD)

Where businesses have sold packages to EU and UK travellers, rights to refund in the event of cancellation are under review given the exceptional nature of current circumstances. Given the absence of cashflow and the challenge of recovering prepayments from suppliers who themselves are under financial stress, many operators will struggle to issue full cash refunds if travellers decline offer of travel credits, delayed repayment etc. The European Commission has issued an updated guidance note on the topic here.

The issue is also under discussion in the UK, where package travel regulations (PTR) still match EU arrangements. Some EU countries have chosen to permit operators to offer a travel credit as opposed to a cash refund; others require operators to provide full refund and offer the operators direct financial support. Operators report that some suppliers will only accept travel credits for the same individuals whose tours are cancelled, which may prove impractical in many cases. Whether financial protection provided under the PTD will also apply to travel credits in the event of issuers subsequent insolvency is also under scrutiny.

It is important to note that the state-to-state variation within the EU derives from member states’ rights to act in exceptional circumstances provided for by the Lisbon Treaty: PTD itself has not yet been amended (nor has PTR in the UK). PTD was drafted to provide ‘maximum harmonisation’ between member states. Its current operation and impact is covered in our weekly calls with the Commission and other Brussels stakeholders.

VAT

Sales tax deferment is being considered by governments across Europe to help businesses maintain cash. A note on how this will operate in the UK is here. We expect the European Commission to delay the formal re-launch of its proposed revision of the Tour Operators Margin Scheme (TOMS).

Destinations

 

Over the course of the last weeks, ETOA has held virtual working group meetings with members in the Nordics, Barcelona, London, Paris and Rome. Participants discussed the impact the pandemic has had and what information could be useful in helping to deal with rebooking and cancellations. Participants also discussed the recovery and what this may look like. We would like to thank participants for their contribution in these difficult times.

Over the coming weeks our 17 destinations pages and 27 tourist tax pages will be reviewed and updated. If there are any specific updates you would like to see here or if you have additional information to add, please contact policy@etoa.org.

Germany

Oberammergau – Passion play: Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Passion play has been delayed to 2022, premiere 21 May 2022. For information about reimbursement of tickets and arrangements already purchased, please visit our Germany page.

Italy

Naples – coach access: As mentioned in previous update, the city of Naples banned access to the historical centre for tourist coaches from Christmas 2019 until 5 February 2020. It has been proposed that this ban may be implemented again from April 2020. However, our understanding is that the decision has been delayed due to COVID-19, but we have not yet been able to confirm with authorities. If the ban is implemented, the plan will not commence until June 2020. We will update the Italy page when more information is available.

Venice – access fee/landing contribution: We are awaiting confirmation but understand this tourist tax applicable to day visitors (which was due to be implemented 1 July 2020) has been postponed until 1 July 2021. Further information on the tax can be found on our Italy tourist tax page.

Netherlands

Amsterdam – guiding from April 2020: To our understanding, the decision about the new strict guiding regulations in Amsterdam from 01 April 2020 has not yet been made. We are in contact with Gemeente and other stakeholders to understand the situation. If the plan is approved, it will impact visitors in guided groups of more than four people. We will update our Amsterdam page as soon as we have more information about the decision.

Amsterdam – entertainment tax (VMR): Due to COVID-19, the declaration for the first quarter of 2020 has been postponed until July 2020. Further information on VMR can be found on our Netherlands tourist tax page which links to the Gemeente page, as well as in previous Destination and Policy updates (latest information February 2020 update).

Poland

Krakow – Auschwitz museum entry passes: Our March update included information about the museum’s new Entry Pass regulation (all entry passes to be named during booking) to eliminate illegal re-selling of tickets. Since then, the museum has changed their amendment policy for 2020 and will now allow up to 10% amendments. The updated policy can be found here (§ 8, section 7 and 8 especially). The new process is making it difficult for operators to hold tickets for groups in advance without names, but the aim is to make it easier for tour operators to find available tickets, which has been a challenge in previous years as re-sellers reserved most tickets early on. This is no longer possible.

Spain

Barcelona – hotel closures: Nearly all hotels in Spain are now closed to tourists. For tourists who are unable to return home, a list of seven hotels in Barcelona which are available to tourists can be found here.

Barcelona – tourist tax: Payment of tourist tax for overnight stays and day visits by cruise passengers has been deferred until September 2020. Implementation of the surcharge tax has also been delayed. Further information on both taxes can be found on our Spain tourist tax page.

Granada – Alhambra: The new reservation system for bookings from 12 April 2020 onwards is now live. While our initial understanding was that only full names would be required during the booking, the system requires ID details as well (e.g. passport number) to be able to complete the booking. Read more here.

United Kingdom

Scotland – tourist tax: The Scottish Government has announced a package of measures to support businesses affected by COVID-19 which includes the halting of the visitor levy bill in 2020. If the bill is reinstated, the delay is likely to mean that local authorities in Scotland (should they wish) will not be able to levy a tourist tax until 2022 at the earliest due to legislative process. Further information can be found on our UK tourist tax page.

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