The federal economy minister has issued a warning of the approaching deadline for using the vouchers that were issued last year to people whose package holidays had to be cancelled because of the new coronavirus precautions.
In total, some 210,757 vouchers were issued, for a value of €356 million, between 20 March and 19 June 2020.
The vouchers had a validity of one year, which means that the deadline for using the earliest of them is approaching, the ministry has announced.
One problem is that the situation worldwide has by no means improved since the early days of the pandemic, and shows few signs of doing so in the months until June.
Leave aside the fact that non-essential travel is currently banned in Belgium, while other countries that might be considered package holiday destinations also have strict entry criteria, including obligatory quarantine.
Nonetheless, the deadline is fixed, and unless used before that time, the vouchers become useless.
The scheme was intended to help the package holiday industry at a time of lockdown, by taking the burden of cancellations onto the government’s shoulders rather than leave them facing the wrath of customers for a situation outside of their control.
Some options still exist for voucher holders, however.
A full refund is still possible if the voucher is not used in time. The tour organiser is obliged to pay out within six months.
If a holiday has already been booked the customer can cancel and obtain a full refund, but only if they can show with certainty that the destination country has a travel ban in place, for example by reference to the foreign affairs ministry website. In that case a refund must be paid within 14 days. A vague idea that travel may not be possible at the time of travel is not sufficient proof.
For packages booked after 20 June 2020, customers were not obliged to accept a voucher, and could demand a refund for cancellations. Any who accepted a voucher after that date should have been told they ran the risk of losing everything if the operator went bankrupt.
NOTE: The above relates only to package tours booked in their entirety. Cancelled airline flights are entitled to a full refund or a new ticket whatever the reason was. Anyone who booked a hotel room holiday accommodation or hire care and suffered a travel cancellation should consult the contract conditions of the rental.
The Brussels Times