Thinking of reserving summer holidays? Think again according to Brussels

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen says it is impossible to make reliable forecasts for the coming months, while António Costa calls for residents to think about plans within Portugal.

Photo by Khachik Simonian on Unsplash
Photo by Khachik Simonian on Unsplash
23 April 2020, Redaction

Leave your summer holiday plans on 'stand by'. This is what the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, is asking of European residents, due to the impossibility of making reliable predictions in the current climate about the behaviour of the coronavirus pandemic in the medium and long term. "I recommend waiting before making plans. At this time, no one can make reliable predictions for July and August," she told the German newspaper 'Bild'. In Portugal, Prime Minister António Costa asks for caution, and asks the Portuguese, when the time does arrive to book holidays, that they plan holidays in the country instead of going abroad.

By now, many people will have already booked holidays and made reservations, so the problem of cancellations and refunds is the current issue. Faced with this unprecedented context, the European Commissioner for Justice and Consumers, Didier Reynders, has come to ask EU member states, travel agencies and all those directly involved to find pragmatic and flexible solutions that respect tourists with travel packages cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

In a communiqué, released on the European Commission's website, officials state that "travellers have the right to a full refund if the trip is cancelled", explaining that this right is stipulated in the EU directive on package travel and related travel services. Nevertheless, it is pointed out that "where possible, consumers should consider accepting a 'voucher' allowing them to postpone their holiday until a later date, under certain conditions", stating that "such a voucher should be refundable if it is not used and guaranteed in the event of possible insolvency of the operator".

At the same time, it asks Member States to cooperate in 'supporting the liquidity of travel agencies by allowing them to settle travellers' claims in accordance with state support rules."

Costa asks residents to plan their holidays in Portugal 

It is still too early to think about the summer holidays, especially since it is not known where the pandemic will stand in June, July or August. But Prime Minister António Costa does not want to risk giving concrete advice  to residents just yet, and instead has opted for a message of hope, albeit with some reservations.

"Not wanting to risk being optimistic, I would say wait a few more weeks, but don't stop thinking about the summer holidays. In fact, for the Portuguese economy it would be of huge damage if this summer is a summer where tourism has no minimum operating conditions. I want to believe that by the summer the situation will be under control enough so that we can have the holidays and enjoy them as much as possible", stated the Prime Minister in a recent interview with the Portuguese online newspaper, Observador, showing his less conservative approach in comparison to the EU.

In spite of this, he also asks the Portuguese for caution. "For now, my advice to the Portuguese population would be to plan the holidays here, in Portugal, because we are always safer here at this stage and less subject to uncertainty," he said in the same interview, ensuring that it is not possible, for now, to set a date for a return to normality, nor how it will be done.

President of the Confederation of Tourism "very concerned"

The president of the Portuguese Tourism Confederation (CTP), Francisco Calheiros, is very concerned about what could happen this summer, particularly in terms of the consequences for companies in the sector. "In March, we practically had a 50% drop in all activity. In April and May, more than 90% of our companies will have zero sales," stated Calheiros, quoted in the national news agency Lusa.

Still, there is a glimmer of hope in the air. The president believes that if the current numbers regarding the fight against the pandemic are confirmed at the end of this month, "calmly and safely - with the availability of protective equipment - we should start to reopen activity".

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