Q – One question that I don’t recall seeing addressed: The little lady and I are starting to do some nice trips now that the kids are grown and one of them is attending law school. (He’s been cut off). We enjoy escorted tours led by knowledgeable guides that use some of the better hotels around the world. We have booked a program to Morocco using a US-based company and a tour of Portugal planned by a Lisbon-based firm. We couldn’t see many real quality differences. But from a consumer view, shall we, going forward, stick with US-based firms for the protections offered to American travelers abroad? In reading your site I realize that, in travel, assumptions are not always correct. Love the site – don’t stop what you’re doing.
A – Actually, this is one of those times where assumptions are incorrect. We will only discuss Europe for now, because travel within Europe would be the exception to the rule you are trying to establish. Respected travel attorney Mark Peskroink recently addressed this topic in response to a question from a travel agent in Travel Weekly. He pointed out that European nations tend to have much stricter consumer protection laws when it comes to travel. In the States, for example, we often see that suppliers have surety bonds, or trust accounts as “protection” against default. But these protections are filled with exceptions and, most importantly, US laws allow Tour Operators to avoid liability when their suppliers are guilty of non-performance.
Under European laws, the tour operator is basically liable to the client for anything that goes wrong during a trip. This, importantly, includes subcontractor performance if the tour operator chose them. Every major European tourist nation has a government-sponsored insolvency plan that makes good on defaults by a supplier who goes out of business.
It is very important to note that these consumer travel protection laws in Europe apply to private travel arrangements as well as group tours. Stranded passengers who had air arranged as part of a tour also receive a remedy in the form of accommodations and new flights.
The bottom line, sadly, is that the average American traveling to Europe has better legal protection if they use a European-based company than they would if they worked exclusively with American firms.
By the way – are you cutting your son off because he is financially independent – or because he decided to become a lawyer?