Expensive Vacation: Subsequent Price Increases for Group Tours?

expensive vacation
Subsequent price increases for group trips?

Vacations during times of high kerosene prices can quickly become more expensive. This also applies to group trips that have already been booked – or is it? It can help to look at the finer details.

A family of four wants to travel to Spain. The holiday package has been booked for a long time and expectations are high. I was even more surprised when I read a message from the organizer: due to the high prices of kerosene, the trip now costs 2,300 euros instead of 2,000. Could something like this happen?

No, despite the high prices for kerosene, vacationers do not have to fear such sights. “One-sided adjustment is limited to eight percent,” says Dusseldorf attorney Hans-Joseph Vogel. This means that if the organizer wants to increase prices by more than eight percent, the customer can pay the additional costs, but does not have to. There are also requirements for unilateral price adjustment by the regulator up to eight percent of the price, more on that below.

What does the industry say?

Let’s stick with the family example for now. In theory, a unilateral increase of up to 160 euros, which is eight percent from 2,000 euros, would have been conceivable. But will tour operators take advantage of that, for example in light of rising fuel costs?

A survey conducted by the specialized portal at the beginning of May among shipping companies was supposed to bring some relief to the holidays: very few cruise operators plan to pay the fuel surcharge. The reason for the survey was an announcement by Plantours, which charges additional fees for flights already booked, in part due to higher fuel costs.

But this is still the exception, emphasizes Christine Heinen of the German Travel Association (DRV). In their opinion, prices for group trips – regardless of whether they travel by plane, ship or bus – have remained constant.

Price increases are not that easy

Changing prices is not so easy, says attorney Hans-Joseph Vogel. “The regulator may only increase prices if it expressly reserves the right to do so.” The appropriate formulas can be found in the Terms and Conditions (GTC). If you want to make sure the regulator is allowed to raise prices, you can’t avoid reading lowercase.

In the same way, such clauses also mean that prices should fall, on the contrary. For example, if the exchange rates change between the conclusion of the contract and the start of the trip, the tour operator will have to pay less. Therefore, according to a spokeswoman for DRV Heinen, most providers refrain from changing prices. In view of the complex calculations, the bureaucratic effort is not worth it.

In addition, vacationers have the right to withdraw for free in the event of significant price increases exceeding the eight percent limit mentioned above. In the end, in such a situation, the organizer will have to bear all costs in the worst case.

Reasons for high prices are fixed

If the organizer decides to transfer prices to the customer, then there must be certain reasons: they include, for example, increased fuel or energy costs, which is the reason for the high cost of transportation. In the same way, it can pass tax increases or higher fees for travel services and exchange rate changes to customers.

The organizer must inform its clients in writing of the increase in the price of the booked flight at least 20 days before the start of the trip. Therefore, Carolina Wojtal of the European Consumer Center advises customers to monitor this period closely. If the increase in the price of travel by up to eight percent occurs less than 20 days before the date of departure, vacationers do not have to accept this additional fee. You can then refuse to pay with reference to the legal situation, according to Consumer Advice Centers.

And what if the organizer only wants to hand over the travel documents when these additional fees are paid, but has already passed the deadline? Then you should pay the additional cost with reservations, advising consumer advocates. This way you won’t jeopardize your vacation, but you still have the option of getting a refund.

Price increase deadline applies to both sides

While timely price increases of up to eight percent must be accepted with the corresponding effective price change terms in the General Terms and Conditions, the situation is different for additional fees exceeding this limit. According to Logtal, in this case, regulators can “require the customer to accept the offer to increase the price within a reasonable time.” This is a matter of evaluating the interests of the client and the regulator. After all, the tour operator wants to resell the trip if the customer withdraws. But customers have a choice.

So you need to make a decision: during the period set by the organizer, you can either order an alternative flight equivalent to the previous price, or cancel the booked vacation for free. However, vacationers who completely ignore the message tacitly accept the price increase.

It could become more expensive in 2023

Despite the current skepticism: in general, the price level should remain quite stable this year, according to travel experts. Because the organizers have planned and booked their units for the long term.

The situation may be different in 2023. Then the industry fears significant increases. “It will depend on how successful regulators are in negotiating rates with service providers – including hotels and airlines – and how long that happens,” Woogtal says.

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