Greek travelers’ rights and possible pitfalls

Before the fear of terrorist attacks was revived, Greeks had been rushing to travel agencies to book their Christmas holidays in what was one of the busiest times in years for travel agents, who attributed the renewed interest after a difficult summer to the short duration of many people’s summer vacations. Consumer unions, however are warning that holiday packages can contain traps for the unwary and that travelers should be aware of their rights before deciding on a particular trip. Vienna, Prague, Paris (Eurodisney), Lapland, northern Italy, Switzerland, the Maldives, Cuba and other Caribbean destinations along with Greece’s winter resorts are the most popular destinations this Christmas season. «Demand is particularly high, especially because Greeks don’t usually travel abroad in summer,» the TUI agency’s Antonis Karelas told Kathimerini. «Even the October 28 long weekend was unexpectedly good for travel agents,» he added. This year, package holiday prices are about the same or lower than last year’s. A five-day package to Vienna costs abut 570 euros, a week in Santa Claus’s village in Finland is 1,850 euros, six days at a European ski resort 1,200 euros and seven days at a more exotic destination approximately 2,000 euros. No matter where one decides to go by booking through a travel agent, one should be aware of one’s rights, according to the European Union’s relevant directive and presidential decree of 1996. Panayiota Kalapotharakou, a lawyer and vice president of the consumer organization EKPOIZO, says that before people book a package tour they should sign a written agreement that specifies the destination, accommodation, price and itinerary. The travel agent should provide all additional information in writing in advance, such as any passport, visa or vaccination requirements, information about stopovers, transport and the name and address of the local representative. The contract should also provide for a deadline for a cancellation by the customer. If the person cannot travel for whatever reason, he or she has the right to give the ticket to another person (as long as that person fulfills the requirements) up to five days before the departure date. Otherwise, they lose their deposit. If the journey is canceled by the agent, customers have the right to demand another trip of the same or higher standard or to have the deposit refunded. Customers may also claim compensation if a trip is canceled, unless this is due to insufficient numbers or reasons beyond the agents’ control, such as a natural disaster or war. Compensation may also be claimed if there are problems during the trip or if the terms of the contract are not fulfilled. These claims should be made in writing. According to Kalapotharakou, the price of the package tour cannot be amended except in unusual circumstances, such as a change in the foreign exchange rate. It is also important to know that details outlined in the travel brochures are considered part of the contract.