Sale and organisation of travel arrangements, services concerning tourist hospitality and tourist packages

This page was last modified on 02-06-2016

In order to protect consumers and avoid disputes, the regulations regarding the sale of travel arrangements, services concerning tourist hospitality and all-in tourist packages have to be strictly respected.

Therefore, each travel agent has to:

  • comply with the mandatory information when drafting a sales contract;
  • inform the clients in a clear and precise manner about all aspects concerning their journey before they sign the contract;
  • inform the clients about their right to transfer or, in some cases, to cancel the sales contract;
  • provide the clients with essential information before their departure (departure and arrival times, itinerary, contacts on site, insurance and assistance in the event of problems, etc.);
  • make every effort to help travellers in difficulty after their departure.

Who is concerned

Target audience

In Luxembourg, only travel agents and associations explicitly targeted by the law are authorised to organise or sell travel arrangements and services related to tourist hospitality.

Travel professionals who do not have the travel agent status and associations not falling under the law are recommended to use a duly established travel agency for the organisation of their travel plans.

Particular rules apply to all persons who, on a regular basis and whatever the form of their remuneration, organise or sell:

  • individual or collective travel or accommodation arrangements;
  • travel arrangements, holidays and package tours;
  • services provided during holidays or short stays, such as:
    • the issuance of transport documents;
    • room reservations in hotels or tourist accommodation establishments;
    • the issuance of vouchers for accommodation or meals;
  • services related to tourist hospitality, namely customer care and the organisation of tours, conferences and other similar events.

Persons who regularly carry out these activities in return for payment are advised to establish themselves as travel agents.

Who is not concerned

The following are not concerned:

  • associations, groups and bodies declared of public interest who, within the framework of their activities only, organise the journey and transport from and/or to:
    • holiday resorts or recreational centres;
    • summer camps for youths under 18;
    • holiday villages or family houses;
  • natural and legal persons who provide their own tourist hospitality services, in particular customer care and the organisation of tours, conferences and other similar events, for the services they produce themselves.
    Example: tourist reception and visit of vineyards and wine cellars, etc.;
  • natural and legal persons who operate a hotel or tourist accommodation establishment and who manage the room reservations for their establishment on their own;
  • natural or legal persons who transport people outside of holiday trips and tours including their transfers;
  • natural or legal persons authorised to rent out vehicles.

In principle, non-profit associations (association sans but lucratif - asbl) who make occasional travel arrangements for their members only are not required to use the services of travel agencies for as long as they do not enter into competition with them. However, as soon as these associations receive any form of payment and the travel arrangements are made on a regular basis, it is recommended to use a travel agency.

Preliminary steps

With the exception of persons who are explicitly excluded by the regulations, each person concerned must first establish himself as a travel agent.

How to proceed

Mandatory information

General comments

Travel agents have a triple obligation to provide information to their clients. The law requires them to communicate:

  • prior information before concluding the contract;
  • mandatory information in the contract;
  • certain information to the clients before their departure.

Mandatory information in the brochure

The information provided by the brochure before concluding a contract binds the travel agents, i.e. they must comply with the information contained in the documentation provided.

In a brochure, travel agents must indicate:

  • the name and address of the person holding the authorisation to carry out the activity as a travel agent;
  • the business permit details;
  • the names and adresses of the guarantor;
  • the names and adresses of the insurer.

Any modification of the information in the brochures must be provided to the client in writing before concluding the contract. If this is not done, the travel agents remain bound by the initial information stated in the brochure

Prior information before signing the contract

Before signing a contract, the travel agent must provide the following in writing or in any other format providing the same guarantees to the client:

  • the price and terms of payment of the travel arrangement;
  • the detailed services provided, i.e.:
    • the destination;
    • the means, characteristics and categories of transport used;
    • the itinerary for the trip;
    • the type of accommodation, the main characteristics of the place of accommodation, its situation and tourist classification compared to the regulations in force in the country concerned (the standing in terms of stars);
    • the number of meals included;
  • if the realisation of the trip is contingent upon having a minimum number of participants, the deadline for informing the client in the case where the trip is cancelled due to an insufficient number of participants;

    This deadline cannot be any shorter than 21 days prior to the departure.

  • the terms of cancellation of the contract by the client, namely:
    • the cancellation deadlines;
    • the cost to be borne by the client in the event of cancellation;
  • the prerequisites to cross the borders, namely:
    • all information regarding passports and visas;
    • sanitary formalities required during travel and stay;
  • the indication that the agent reserves the right to modify the information provided.

    The law allows travel agents to indicate in writing that they reserve the right to modify all prior information communicated to the client. In the event of failure to do so, all prior information communicated to the client binds the travel agent who in this case is no longer allowed to modify the information. Only the client can request changes to the services offered which must then be stated in the contract.

Each document with the information listed above and provided to the client by the travel agent must also include:

  • the name and address of the person holding the authorisation to carry out the activity as a travel agent;
  • the business permit details;
  • the names and adresses of the guarantor;
  • the names and adresses of the insurer.

The client can consider the contract null and void if it was concluded in violation of the pre-contractual obligations.

Mandatory information before departure

Travel agents are required to provide the travellers in writing and before their departure with all information concerning:

  • the transport, i.e.:
    • departure and arrival times;
    • stopovers and travel connections;
    • in the event of travel by boat or train, the traveller's assigned seat if a reservation was made;
  • all contact persons, i.e.:
    • the name, address and telephone number of the tour operator's local representative, of the sales agent or local bodies which are likely to assist the traveller in case of problems;
    • with regard to journeys and stays for underage children abroad, the necessary information which will enable a direct contact with the child or with the responsible person on site;
  • information concerning the insurance and assistance, i.e.:
    • information concerning the optional insurance policy to cover cancellation costs;
    • information concerning the optional assistance contract to cover repatriation costs in the event of accident or sickness.

Contractual terms

Mandatory information in the contract

The terms of the contract must have been communicated in writing to the client before the conclusion of the contract. It is important that clients have really been able to acquaint themselves with all the elements of the contract before signing.

If this is not the case, the contract is null and void.

Each contract concluded between a travel agent and his client which concerns all inclusive holiday arrangements for trips and stays must include:

  • the names and adresses of:
    • the tour operator;
    • the seller;
    • the guarantor;
    • the insurer;
  • the detailed services provided, i.e.:
    • the destination or destinations of the trip;
    • in the case of several periods of stay, the different periods of stay and their dates;
    • the itinerary for the trip;
    • the means, characteristics and categories of transport used to reach the destination (departure and arrival times, stopovers and connections, and in the event of travel by boat or train, the traveller's assigned seat if a reservation was made);
    • the type of accommodation, the main characteristics of the place of accommodation, its situation and tourist classification compared to the regulations in force in the country concerned (the establishment's standing in terms of stars);
    • the number of meals included;
    • the final dates, times and places of departure and return which must have been determined at the latest when the travel documents were handed over to the client;
    • all visits, excursions or other services included in the total price of the package;
    • if the realisation of the package is contingent upon having a minimum number of participants, the deadline for informing the client in the case where the trip is cancelled due to an insufficient number of participants.

      This deadline cannot be any shorter than 21 days prior to the departure;

  • the price and terms of payment, i.e.:
    • the price of the package;
    • the indication of any fees or taxes for certain services (landing, embarkation or disembarkation fees at ports or airports, visitor's taxes) whenever they are not included in the package;
    • the terms of payment;
    • the payment schedule;
    • the rights and obligations of each party with regard to the adjustment of prices;
    • the amount or percentage of the price paid as a down payment and the payment schedule for the balance (the last instalment can't be lower than 30 % of the total price and has to be paid at the time the travel documents are received);
    • all special arrangements that the client requested from the travel agent at the time of the reservation and which were agreed on by both parties;
  • the rights and obligations incumbent on both parties, i.e.:
    • the cancellation terms;
    • the terms for a transfer of the contract;
    • the deadlines in which the client must express a complaint for non-performance or poor performance of the contract;
    • a possible optional clause concerning the limitation of liability of the travel agent with regard to moral (non-material) damages following the non-performance of one or more contractual obligations;
  • the terms for the presentation of the documents;
  • the signature by the travel agent and the client;
  • the certificate of guarantee with the aim to inform the client:
    • of the insurance taken out by the travel agent in the case of bankruptcy or insolvency;
    • the reimbursement of the amounts paid to the travel agent for the services stipulated in the contract;
    • the handling of repatriation.
      The certificate which must be given to the client must contain:
      • the contents of the guarantee;
      • the name and address of the guarantor;
      • all the information which enables the client to contact the guarantor at all times to ensure a repatriation if needed.

The terms of the contract must also reflect the prior information provided to the client. The contract may deviate from this information:

  • on the initiative of the client if he has requested a modification of the services offered or displayed and if the travel agent has agreed on the modification;
  • with regard to the information contained in the brochures:
    • if the travel agent has reserved the right to modify the information published in the brochure;
    • if the travel agent has informed the client in writing of the modifications in a timely manner and before the conclusion of the contract;
    • for all other prior information where the travel agent has reserved the right to do so.

Price

The prices in the contract can be adjusted if:

  • the changes concern:
    • the transport costs (especially with regard to fuel costs);
    • fees and taxes concerning the services offered (embarkation and disembarkation fees at ports or airports);
    • the exchange rates that apply to the journey;
  • the contract stipulates a possible adjustment of the price in any direction;
  • the contract determines the precise calculation method of the new price.

If the contract does not stipulate this information, the prices can not be adjusted.

Within 20 days before the planned departureonly downward adjustments of the price can be applied, if this possibility has been stipulated in the contract.

In the case of an upward adjustment of the price of the contract, the client can exercise his right of cancellation, even if the possible price adjustment and its terms were stipulated in the contract. Travel agents who increase the price must inform their clients about this and also remind them of their right of cancellation.

As soon as the price increase has been announced, the client can terminate the contrat within 7 days. When no particular information is provided, the 7-day deadline starts on receipt of the latest invoice for the services ordered. Clients who terminate their contract are entitled to the full reimbursement of the amounts paid, without the application of a fee or penalty, within 10 days after the termination.

The price for the travel arrangement in the contract can not be increased during the 20 days prior to the departure.

Transfer of the contract

Clients can, if they wish so, transfer their contract to another person who meets all the conditions required for the trip or stay, provided the travel agent is informed beforehand. The transferor (client who transfers the contract) is required to inform the travel agent of his decision within a reasonable deadline before the departure.

The transferor and the transferee (person taking over the contract) are jointly liable to the travel agent, for the payment of the travel package or the stay and for any other cost which may be incurred by the transfer. This means that the travel agent can freely turn to either the transferor or to the transferee to claim the payment of all amounts due.

The terms for the transfer have to be put in writing in the sales contract.

Failure to comply with the elements in the contract prior to the departure

Unforeseeable external event

If before the departure, the travel agent is forced to not meet one of the essential elements in the contract following and unforeseeable external event, he must:

  • inform the client within 3 days after the event occured;
  • inform the client of his right to terminate the contract within 7 days after having received the information, unless the client accepts the modification of the contract.

In the event of a termination of the contract, the client is entitled to the full reimbursement of the amounts paid, without the application of a fee or penalty, within 10 days after the termination.

Clients who do not wish to terminate the contract can also chose another arrangement of equivalent quality, if not higher, without an increase in price, and which may be offered as a replacement by the travel agent. If the offer is of lower quality, the client is entitled to a reimbursement of the difference in price.

Termination of the contract by the travel agent

If, before the departure, the travel agent terminates the contract without fault on the part of the client, he must reimburse the full amount paid by the latter within 10 days as from the date of termination.

Moreover, the client can claim compensatory damages unless the termination is due to:

  • the fact that the number of clients registered for the stay is below the minimum required and that the travel agent has informed the client in writing within the deadlines indicated in the description of the holiday arrangement;
  • force majeure, namely external, abnormal and unforeseeable events whose consequences could not have been prevented.

Failure to comply with the elements in the contract after the departure

If, after the departure, one of the elements in the contract cannot be respected, the travel agent must offer the client equivalent services of at least the same quality as a replacement for the services which were not provided, unless it is impossible for duly justified reasons.

After this, the travel agent must:

  • either pay for the additional costs incurred by the modification of the services;
  • or reimburse the client the price difference between the planned services and the actual services provided.

Where the travel agent is unable to offer a replacement service, or if, for valid reasons, the client refuses the replacement service offered, the travel agent must provide the client with the transport documents that are required for his return. Moreover, the client is entitled to claim compensatory damages.

Liability of travel agents

Travel agents are fully liable to their clients for the proper execution of the obligations in the contract, whether these obligations were executed by the travel agent himself or by other service providers.

It should be noted that travel agents have a right of appeal against any service provider who did not provide the services agreed on.

Travel agents can be fully or partly exonerated from liability by providing the proof that the non-execution of the contract is due to:

  • either the client;
  • or a third party not involved in the provision of the services specified in the contract;
  • or force majeure.

Nevertheless, and except for shortcomings that are attributable to the client, travel agents are required to make every effort to assist their client(s) in difficulty.

In the case of non-execution of the obligations specified in the contract, the client can claim compensation for the harm suffered, provided that compensatory damages have not been limited by the contract.

In the case where the non-execution of the obligations in the contract involves a service falling under international law, appeals for compensation for harm suffered will depend on the provisions in international law which prevails over national law.

Disputes

Who to contact?

In the event of a dispute, consumers can obtain information and help from:

  • the Union luxembourgeoise des Consommateurs (ULC - the luxembourg consumer association), for a dispute between a consumer and a tourist service provider (travel agency, airline, hotel, etc.) in Luxembourg;
  • the European Consumer Centre (ECC Luxembourg) in the case of a cross-border consumer dispute, namely a dispute between a consumer and a tourist service provider located in another country of the European Union.

Filing a complaint

Clients who wish to receive a reimbursement or even compensatory damages from the travel agent have to:

  • inform the tour operator's representative on site of the holiday location and have them draw up an "irregularity report" stating all the points at issue;
  • document their claim as good as possible, with photos or testimonies which can support the claim;
  • upon their return home, inform the travel agent by registered mail of the problems encountered during the holiday.

It should be noted that the complaint must be based on objective criteria which are not the result of a personal opinion. For example, the client can legitimately request a reimbursement in the case of services that are of a lower standard than those specified in the contract.

The client can also refer the case to the Commission luxembourgeoise des litiges de voyage (CLLV), who is the mediator responsible for handling traveller complaints.

The CLLV's mission is to seek reconciliation between the parties. If the reconciliation fails, the CLLV issues a legal opinion based on the principle of equity. However, the opinion is not legally binding, meaning that it imposes no obligation on the parties, but the opinion's moral authority may be enough to settle the dispute. In the case of an objection, the parties can take the case to court and the opinion may be used as proof.