Every vacationer looks forward to a carefree trip, but sometimes unforeseen events such as flight cancellations, delays or natural disasters such as forest fires can spoil vacation happiness.
In such situations, tour operators have a special responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of their customers. But what exactly are the obligations of tour operators if the holiday is jeopardized by irregular events?
Holiday canceled prematurely or hotel unusable due to forest fires: the obligations of the tour operator
If a forest fire or natural disaster affects the holiday destination and endangers the safety of travelers, the tour operator must act immediately. He has a duty to inform his customers of the situation and, if necessary, to take measures for the safety and well-being of holidaymakers. This may include the premature termination of the holiday or evacuation from the affected region.
In addition, the tour operator is obliged to organize suitable alternative accommodation if the booked hotel cannot be used due to the natural disaster. The alternative accommodation should correspond to the hotel originally booked in terms of quality and price. The tour operator bears the costs for the alternative accommodation for the duration of the unusability of the original hotel.
Stranded at the holiday destination: right to alternative accommodation
If travelers are stranded at their holiday destination due to flight cancellations, delays or other unforeseen circumstances, tour operators must also arrange for appropriate alternative accommodation. The length of time for which the tour operator has to bear the costs may vary depending on the region and the law. As a rule, however, the tour operator should provide alternative accommodation for at least one to two nights.
Travel price reduction in the event of premature termination of vacation due to forest fires
If a vacation trip has to be cut short due to forest fires or other natural disasters, travelers may be entitled to a trip price reduction. The amount of this reduction depends on various factors, such as the duration of the early termination and the original travel price. It is advisable to contact the tour operator and clarify the situation individually.
Consumer protection organizations as support
Affected holidaymakers who have questions about their rights and claims can contact the respective consumer protection organizations in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. These organizations offer support and advice on legal issues related to the travel contract and consumer rights.
- In Austria: The “Chamber of Labour” (AK) and the “Association for Consumer Information” (VKI).
- In Germany: The “Federal Association of Consumer Organizations” (vzbv) and the local consumer organizations.
- In Switzerland: The “Foundation for Consumer Protection” (SKS) and the “Consumer Protection” (Konsumentenschutz.ch).
Package tours vs. individually self-booked trips: the advantages
The advantage of package tours is that tour operators act as a central point of contact and bear responsibility in the event of irregularities or natural disasters. They arrange flights, accommodation and other services so travelers don't have to worry about the details. In case of problems, tour operators are obliged to provide solutions, which increases the safety and comfort of travelers.
In the case of trips booked individually, however, the traveler is responsible for the organization and booking of all individual services, which allows more flexibility. However, in unforeseen situations, travelers must also look for solutions themselves and, if necessary, bear the costs for rebooking or alternative accommodation.
Overall, travelers should consider their individual needs and preferences when choosing between package tours and trips they have booked themselves and find out in advance about their rights and insurance options in order to be well prepared in the event of irregularities or natural disasters.