Liablity of tour operators under Belgian law

A fully booked or closed hotel, planned excursions that do not take place, the reserved car that is not available, etc. What are the rights and obligations of the traveler and of the tour operator / tour operator?

General principle: liability

Each party must comply with the obligations that it has entered into. The tour operator is liable for the execution of the travel services that were agreed upon in the package tour. This applies both to the travel services that the organizer offers himself and to the travel services offered by others (eg the hotel, excursion, …). So every effort must be made to comply with the package tour and to offer the traveler the right to receive.

What if the traveler does receive the services that he has booked?

The traveler who is faced with a shortcoming during the package tour has the obligation to inform the travel organizer of this without delay. After all, without knowledge of the problem, no intervention can be offered.

The tour operator then has to find a solution for every shortcoming. He will, for example, have to take care of another car / hotel, a replacement flight, a new excursion, etc. He can only avoid this if the defect is of such a nature that every solution is impossible or if this involves disproportionately high costs. (taking into account on the one hand the extent of the shortcoming and on the other hand the value of the travel service).

If the tour operator fails to solve the problem within a reasonable period of time, then he is obliged to reimburse the costs of the shortcoming to the traveler. The traveler does not even have to propose a deadline in urgent situations or when the tour operator refuses to solve the problem.

It is also possible that the defect is so decisive that it has significant consequences for the further journey (eg transport problems so that the booked hotels can not be reached). The traveler can then terminate the contract if the organizer does not solve the problem within a set period. The traveler is not liable for damages and may even be entitled to a price reduction or compensation from the tour operator. In addition, the organizer must also return the passenger in this case (if the agreement so provided) and this without undue delay, without additional costs and by means of equivalent transport.

What about compensations of a lower quality level?

It may happen that the organizer can not fulfill a significant part of the travel services (eg fully booked or closed hotel). With a view to the continuation of the trip, the organizer is obliged to offer other arrangements of the same or even a higher level of quality. He can not recover the costs of this from the traveler. If the organizer fails to offer a solution of a similar quality level, the traveler is entitled to an appropriate price reduction.

The traveler is, in principle, obliged to accept the newly offered package (eg another hotel) unless this differs too much from his initial reservation (eg an in between flight is replaced by a much longer boat trip) or if the price reduction proposed by the organizer is inadequate.

What are the sanctions?

Can the travel organizer offer no solution at all to the problem of the traveler? In that case, the traveler is in any case entitled to a suitable price reduction and possibly an additional compensation for that part of his trip that was confused by the problem.

The travel organizer can only avoid compensation if he proves that the defect is due 1) to the traveler or 2) to a third party who is not involved in the execution of the travel service and the defect could not have been foreseen or prevented or 3) to unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances, force majeure.

Force Majeure

In case of force majeure the travel organizer will not owe any compensation. However, he will always provide assistance to the traveler who is in trouble. He will, for example, have to provide useful information about medical services, local authorities, consular assistance, etc.

If, due to a situation of force majeure, the return of the traveler can not be arranged, the travel organizer will cover the costs of the necessary accommodation on site. This applies to accommodation of an equivalent category and for a maximum of three nights per traveler. This limitation of costs does not apply to persons with reduced mobility and their escorts (in the case of air transport), to pregnant women, minors traveling alone and persons in need of specific medical assistance.

Questions concerning travel law?

Our team closely follows the legislation and case law in the travel sector.  Please feel free to contact us with any questions you may have at info@siriuslegal.be or at +32 2 721 13 00