Almost a year has passed since the amendments to the Law on Tourism came into force on January 1, 2018. These amendments were made due to the implementation of the Directive (EU) 2015/2302 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 November 2015 on package travel and linked travel arrangements, amending Regulation (EC) No 2006/2004 and Directive 2011/83/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council and repealing Council Directive 90/314/EEC, into regulatory enactments of the Republic of Latvia.
The purpose of these amendments is to create more strict supervision over the activity of tour operators and travel agents, as well as to ensure maximum protection of travellers in the event of insolvency of the tour operator. Supervisory functions in the field of package travel and linked travel arrangements from July 1, 2018 were transferred by the Ministry of Economics to the Consumer Rights Protection Centre.
With the entry into force of the aforementioned amendments, the normative regulation of the tourism sector has undergone major changes, the most important of which will be discussed in this article.
As soon as the above-mentioned amendments have entered into force, the normative regulation of the tourism sector has undergone major changes, the most important of which will be analyzed in this article.
1) Package tourism service and linked tourism service
Despite the fact that the package tourism service is not a new type of tourism service, the amendments to the Law on Tourism have given it a new definition.
A package travel service is the combination of at least two different tourism services within one trip (tour), which meets one of these requirements:
a) they are united by one service provider before entering into a contract, or
b) regardless of whether separate agreements have been concluded with service providers, tourism services:
As part of a package tourism service, the following tourism services can be combined: transportation of passengers, hotel accommodation and rental of motor vehicles.
When purchasing one of the above three services and any other additional tourism services (for example, excursions or a concert ticket), the service will be considered a package service if the supplementary service constitutes a significant part of the total cost of the service (i.e. 25%) or is advertised as an important component of the service.
A classic example of a package tourism service is the offer of a tour in which the client is offered a flight, transfer and hotel accommodation. Basically, this is a pre-arranged vacation offer. Unlike a package tourism service, a linked travel service is a new type of service. We can speak about the linked service if during one trip at least two different tourism services were purchased under separate contracts, and the service provider:
Important! Taking into account that the complex Click-through service is very similar to the linked service, it is important to point out the difference between them.
The Click-through package service purchased online will be considered a package service only if the first service provider sends information about the traveller’s name and surname, payment details and e-mail address to one or more service providers, and the second contract is concluded no later than 24 hours after confirming the reservation of the first tourism service.
If the details about the traveller are not sent forward, then it is a linked tourism service.
2) License introduction
The new amendments provide that only tour operators can organize and provide package tourism services, whereas tour operators and travel agents can offer them sale.
From July 1, 2018 to be able to operate as a tour operator and travel agent, one must obtain a special permit – a license.
To obtain a license, a transition period of 1 year has been set. This means that from July 1, 2019, absolutely all tour operators and travel agents must be licensed.
Those tour operators and travel agents that are registered in the Database of Travel Agents and Tour Operators of the Ministry of Economics (hereinafter – the TATO Database) and have started to render package tourism services and linked tourism services before June 30, 2018 are entitled to provide services without obtaining a new license only till June 30, 2019.
The TATO database will be maintained only until June 30, 2019. The license is issued for an indefinite period of time. To obtain the licence, one must meet the following criteria:
The state duty will be fully credited to the state budget for making savings. If necessary, this accumulation will be used for the return (repatriation) of travellers or for other unforseen expenses.
As for the minimum amount of a security guarantee, this amount is determined depending on the turnover of package tourism services and linked tourism services for the previous year and the territory in which the tourism service provider is rendering its services (for example, in Latvia, in the Baltic countries or outside this region).
The turnover of package tourism services and linked tourism services for the previous year means the income from the sale of package tourism services and linked tourism services.