Six providers of pilgrimage packages that the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) had previously compelled to take the necessary travel guarantee measures have now become participants in travel guarantee funds. Two other providers have stopped selling pilgrimage packages. Providers of pilgrimage packages must take the statutorily required travel guarantee measures to protect consumers against possible bankruptcies of their tour operators. They can do so by participating in travel guarantee funds. Pilgrimage trips are often offered as complete packages (trip, visa, and accommodation).
Edwin van Houten, Director of ACM’s Consumer Department, explains: “Pilgrimage packages are considered package tours. Providers of pilgrimage packages are thus required to take travel guarantee measures to protect their customers against bankruptcies. These trips usually come with a hefty price tag. That is why it is important to check what travel guarantee measures a provider has taken before booking a trip with them.”
Investigation into pilgrimage packages
In 2019, ACM launched an investigation into providers of pilgrimage packages. This investigation was prompted by reports suggesting that consumers often were not fully protected against a possible bankruptcy of the tour operator. ACM imposed orders subject to periodic penalty payments on eight providers that had failed to take the required guarantee measures. They were ordered either to take the necessary measures before a certain deadline or to stop offering pilgrimage packages. ACM extended that deadline in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic. By now, some of these providers have become participants in travel guarantee funds, while other providers have stopped offering pilgrimage packages:
- Amlex Travel (has taken travel guarantee measures)
- Alferdoos Reizen Stars Travel (has stopped offering package tours and linked travel arrangements)
- De Richting V.O.F. (has taken travel guarantee measures)
- Elfourssan Reizen (has taken travel guarantee measures)
- Salsabil Travel (has taken travel guarantee measures)
- Stichting Al Manar Haj en Omra (has taken travel guarantee measures)
- Taoufik Reizen (has stopped offering package tours and linked travel arrangements)
- Wadi Alrafidein Travel (has taken travel guarantee measures)
What are travel guarantees?
ACM enforces compliance with travel guarantee rules. Tour operators are statutorily required to take travel guarantee measures to protect consumers against possible bankruptcies of their tour operators. In addition, tour operators are required to inform consumers about the guarantee measures taken by them. In uncertain times like these, travel guarantees offer consumers certainty. Tour operators can take travel guarantee measures by participating in a travel guarantee fund. In this way, consumers that have already paid for their trips would not lose their money if these agencies went bankrupt. Consumers that have already started their trips can be repatriated if necessary, or continue with their trips on another operator.
For the upcoming season, the sale of Hajj packages will start soon. Not all providers may have taken the necessary travel guarantee measures. Consumers are advised to check their tour operators’ travel guarantee measures before booking trips.