October 07, 2020
The travel sector has issued 351 million euros in vouchers to consumers in recent months. Barely 13 percent of those vouchers have already been spent. If consumers exchange their voucher en masse for money in less than a year, the sector is in danger of going bust.
Former Minister of Economy Nathalie Muylle (CD&V) temporarily suspended the mandatory reimbursement of canceled package trips at the start of the corona crisis.
She feared the travel industry would be in trouble due to the massive cancellation of summer plans. In addition, in the event of bankruptcy of the travel agents, the government guaranteed a refund of the holiday, but the guarantee fund does not seem to contain enough money to cover that charge.
Travelers who bought a package holiday received a voucher that they could use to purchase a new trip or other travel services for the coming year. If the voucher is not spent within the year, the consumer will be reimbursed for the trip in cash. Until now, consumers made new bookings for only 13 percent of the total amount of vouchers.
The travel agencies have issued 209,673 corona vouchers for 351 million euros since March. Only 44 million euros of this was used for new bookings last summer. No less than 307 million euros in vouchers must therefore be exchanged later. Much of that amount is in danger of having to pay the travel agents cash to consumers next year, which could be a tough one.
“This is problematic because there is uncertainty about the guaranteed reimbursement to the consumer,” says N-VA Member of Parliament Anneleen Van Bossuyt. With the Guarantee Fund, the government guarantees a guaranteed reimbursement to the traveler in the event of bankruptcy of the travel organizer. “But that fund doesn’t have enough resources to cover the 307 million,” she says.
Van Bossuyt asks the new government for action. ‘A solution must be found as quickly as possible to fulfill the promised guarantee to the consumer.’ If tour operators go bankrupt and the fund is not large enough, the vouchers risk becoming worthless.