Tour operating

Customer rights

Customer rights issues related to tour operating include accessibility to services and products, as well as access to adequate and correct information. 

Accessibility of services

For people with disabilities, as well as the elderly and families with children, travelling and travel planning can be a challenge. These people are highly dependent on correct and comprehensive information about accessibility of services, rooms, parking lots and transport infrastructure. Particular challenges for people with disabilities include unavailability of relevant information, untrained tour operators or destinations which do not provide adequate information and advice about accessibility, booking services or websites which are not geared for people with disabilities (e.g. with visual impairment), and accessibility (including accessible planning) of transport, lodging, restaurants, or tourist attractions. People with special needs are sometimes required to pay higher fees for products and services. There are various tour operators who exclusively focus on the needs and requirements of travellers with disabilities. All tour operators should, however, provide information on the accessibility of their products and services to their customers.

Information

Customers depend on tour operators for correct and adequate information on costs, schedules, content of the offer, security issues, and more. False information or changes in planning or offers may include overbooking, delays and cancellations, changes in pricing, room categories or locations. Further hassles for customers may be related to loss of luggage, lack of hygiene, or construction works taking place at the hotel, unavailability of booked services, etc. Tour operators should inform their customers about potential changes in the offer in a correct and timely manner. Furthermore, it is important that tour operators inform customers about where and how to place complaints and provide access to grievance mechanisms.

Accessible shore excursions for guests with disabilities

From January 2019, a new tour available for Mediterranean cruises of the Costa company will also allow guests with impaired mobility to take part in group shore excursions at no extra cost. The programmes have been planned with the help of 15 women with multiple sclerosis, and the accessibility of the offers have been verified by AISM, the Italian Multiple Sclerosis Association.

EWB Europe Without Barriers: Accessible Cruise

“Globally, it is estimated that there are over 1 billion persons with disabilities, as well as more than 2 billion people, such as spouses, children and caregivers of persons with disabilities, representing almost a third of the world’s population, are directly affected by disability. While this signifies a huge potential market for travel and tourism, it still remains vastly under-served due to inaccessible travel and tourism facilities and services, as well as discriminatory policies and practices.”

The article by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs highlights the normative framework and links various resources on accessible tourism (see link below).

The British Travel Association provides guidance for persons with disabilities on its website, focusing on every stage of a journey. The website also provides information on legal rights of customers with disabilities (see link below)..

There is growing evidence that many of the current generation of older people are keen and frequent travellers. For the tourism industry this offers both challenges and opportunities.

Challenges are related to the specific wishes and needs of elderly customers – not only do they have specific needs in case of impaired mobility, hearing or vision, but they are generally following different wishes and objectives than other travellers. Opportunities lie in the potentially higher incomes elderly people have at their disposal for travelling and tourism. Furthermore, elderly people are often willing to travel off season. By providing accessible services, facilities and offers, tour operators can not only open up a so far rather underdeveloped market for elderly travellers, but also for travellers with disabilities.

The British Travel Association ABTA provides an extensive Q+A section on its website on consumer questions regarding all potential aspects of holidays, including consumer rights and how and where to place complaints.

In 2016, there has been a large increase in the number of complaints by tourists sent to the European Consumer Centre (ECC) in Iceland. In 2015, 175 complaints were processed, representing a 65 percent increase from the previous year.

Causes for the increase may be the related to the increasing flow of tourists or by increased consumer awareness of the ECC network.

The article highlights the example of a tourist who rented a car in Iceland and was involved in an accident. Even though he did not cause the accident and had his innocence confirmed in a police report, he was charged almost 600 Euro by the car rental for damages. After reporting the case to the ECC, the car rental issued the tourist a full refund.

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Take action

Policy and process

  • Integrate accessibility provisions in your own company policy and in the Supplier Code of Conduct to be signed by business partners.

Communication

  • Provide communication material and / or information on accessibility of products and services. Add accessibility-related information on products and services in existing platforms/applications such as e.g. AccessibilityGuide’s ginto guide.

Training & capacity building

  • Train staff on accessibility issues.

Responsible product development

  • Consider including offers for persons with disabilities when developing new products.

Find more information on potential measures to take on the "take action" site. 

Learn more

Find more information in the Resource Centre.