package travel

What’s the Deal with Travel Packages, Legally Speaking?

As the Danube gets ready for the summer travel season, a new law is set to give travelers more rights and better information on their trips.

So, you’re booking a vacation – let’s say your aim is to spend a few days at an adventure or holiday park and you book this first. The park’s website offers you a link to a nearby hotel, and the hotel offers a link to a transport service to and from the park. Does this constitute a package deal if you book everything at one sitting?

That is a question a new law taking effect July 1 is meant to clarify to conform with an EU directive on package travel that will replace outdated legislation om the 1990s. The ease of offering and booking travel services via the Internet has created, in some cases, a legal “gray zone,” according to the EU directive, and the varying laws in EU member countries may pose a disincentive to offer package deals, “thus limiting consumers’ choice.” The aim of the directive is “to enhance transparency, and to increase legal certain for travelers and traders.”

As the directive has been codified in Austria, starting July 1, package tours are considered to consist of at least two travel modules (flight, hotel, transfer, rental car, etc.) that are booked primarily via a travel agency.

Below is a summary of some of the provisions in the new Austrian law accommodating the EU directive and what they mean for travelers:

Information and contract requirements: Consumers must be provided clear information regarding the terms of the booking contract, including what documents are required from the consumer.

Changes and cancelation: The identity of the traveler, the price of the trip and other contract details should be easier to change if conditions defined under the new law are met before the start of the trip, such as illness.

Liability: The new law covers questions of liability in the event of failure to fulfill the terms of the contract and clarify under which conditions travelers are entitled to claims for damages or warranty. These will be determined on a case-by-case basis, but the terms should be clearly spelled out in the contract. In addition, conditions for withdrawal from the contract must be clearly stipulated.

The directive does not apply to trips shorter than 24 hours that do not include accommodation, nor to travel offered to a limited group of people “on a not-for-profit basis.”

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