Information about the EU Package Travel Directive
Implications for waterways tourism in France – Self Drive, Hotel Barging and River Cruising

As the foremost source of professional-level detailed information about waterways cruising in France we have recently commissioned a leading UK law firm to review and report regarding the updated Travel Directive in so far as it relates to our sector.

Where in the past ‘package travel’ might have been assumed to define simply a product consisting of (say) a flight to and from a destination and then (eg hotel) accommodation at the destination, this definition has been significantly changed. 

What follows is a precis of our understanding of 3 pages of their findings. There are significant implications for many of us, whether based or operating in France, or not. We are not lawyers, so we can’t answer questions directly, but we can put you in touch with the firm.

The EU formally adopted a new Package Travel Directive in 2015 with a requirement that all subject countries must update their own laws so that the legislation comes into effect on 1st July 2018. Brexit slightly complicates the situation but it is near-certain that the UK will also comply.

Package Holidays/Vacations – are defined as a combination of –

  • (Any kind of) Transportation
  • Accommodation
  • Vehicle Rental
  • Other travel related products or services (not being an inherent part of the above)

– that are brought together for the purposes of the same trip (cruise) or holiday (vacation) and advertised as such, as a pre-defined priced offering or as optional elements within an offering.
Additionally, the term covers multiple offerings booked separately where one is linked to another and the bookings happen within 24 hours.

Waterway holidays and vacations as Packages

  • Self-drive boating – a boat rental purchase (booking) taken in isolation is not thought to constitute a Package. However, this may alter if other services or products are included that are essential or significant in character. For example, excursions or bikes.
  • Hotel barge cruises – the situation is not clear-cut, but it is highly probable that a hotel barge cruise falls within the provisions of the Directive. This is because it combines, within one client experience, services of transportation (on the barge), non-transitory accommodation (ie a number of nights), hospitality, excursions, visits and other optional features such as bikes.
  • Small ship river cruises – the situation is very similar to barge cruising in that passengers on-board do not take the ship merely to travel from A to B, as a ferry, but enjoy a range of other services as outlined for barges.

Participants in the process, to whom the Directive applies, are –

  • Organisers – who sell directly or via an agent, travel, holiday or vacation packages (as defined above) and who deliver the service to the customer/client. In ‘our context’ the term could cover self-drive hire fleets, hotel barge operators and river cruise lines.
  • Agents – are those that sell packages to customers, subsequently delivered by Organisers.

Generally speaking, satisfactory performance and delivery is the responsibility of the Organiser. The following are relevant –

  • Specific pre-contractual information is to be provided by the Organiser
  • Customers have rights regarding changes
  • There are rules regarding satisfactory performance by the Organiser and entitlements to compensation in the event of poor delivery
  • Obligations to protect and refund customers in the event of Organiser insolvency

EU countries will have discretion to make Agents also responsible for satisfactory delivery to the customer and to require them to comply with the foregoing requirements, alongside Organisers. Each EU country is responsible for implementation, enforcement and dissuasive penalties.

Organisers and Agents are each obliged to inform customers of their rights under the Directive and that their travel package is protected by it.

Georgina Perrott, Solicitor, Corporate Team
Birketts LLP, Cambridge, UK