19 Oct

ABTA 'PTRs review looms large as MPs return from conferences'

This column was first published in Travel Weekly on 19 October 2023.

Abta director of public affairs Luke Petherbridge encourages members to share their views on proposals.

As another party conference season draws to a close, it marks the start of a busy few months ahead for Abta’s public affairs team.

Our team attended each of the main UK-wide political party conferences to meet contacts, promote Abta’s priority policy areas, and generally beat the drum for the importance of the UK travel industry as a provider of jobs and a creator of economic activity across the country.

Party conferences are a very useful setting to develop relationships, not only with existing MPs but also with prospective parliamentary candidates and party officials.

The polls show Labour is strongly ahead, but the party still faces a monumental challenge to overturn the Conservative majority following their landslide of 2019.

As such, it’s vital we continue to engage across party lines to ensure we’re best placed to continue to influence the government the other side of the next general election.

But now, as MPs return to Westminster, our thoughts turn back to more immediate policy priorities, including the review of the Package Travel Regulations (PTRs), which was published just as the parliamentary recess got under way.

The review was required under the 2018 Regulations, but is taking place against the backdrop of the Retained EU Law Act, with the government intent on identifying areas of EU-derived law that can be repealed to provide benefits to UK businesses and/or consumers.

Eye-catching proposals
That desire to diverge from EU law would appear to be the inspiration for some of the more eye-catching proposals being tested, such as the idea of exempting domestic holidays – either entirely or those trips that do not involve transport – and the possibility of setting a price threshold under which non-flight based holidays could be removed from the scope.

The review will also consider what to do about Linked Travel Arrangements (LTAs) – the concept introduced by the 2018 Regulations that sought to provide more limited protections to arrangements consumers might perceive as connected without benefiting from the full protections of a package.

The industry has largely agreed these have not worked as envisaged, but the government is now seeking views on whether to remove these from scope entirely or to attempt to incorporate certain LTAs into the definition of a package holiday. There could be divergent views on the best route ahead in that regard.

Refunds in a pandemic
A proposal that will likely carry more widespread industry support is one to put in place specific arrangements for consumer refunds in the event of extenuating circumstances, such as during the Covid-19 pandemic.

There is also a range of more technical provisions where the government is considering making changes, including altering information provisions and assessing whether regulation 29 of the PTRs provides effective redress for travel businesses when seeking refunds from suppliers.

We are engaging with the government on the proposals and will be responding on behalf of members. Abta has launched an all-member survey to gather the views of our membership and to inform our submission.

We’re also holding a series of workshops across the country, in collaboration with the Department for Business and Trade (DBT), during November and December

Members can sign up to these through ABTA's website.

I would encourage every Abta member to share their views with us to enable us to develop a detailed and representative response, and everyone across the industry to get their views heard before the deadline on December 13.

We will also discuss the PTRs proposals at Abta’s Travel Regulations Conference on November 15. More details can be found on ABTA's website.