Agents have been urged to check with their supplier partners operating coach holidays in Europe to ensure they have prepared contingency plans in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
The warning from Rhys Griffiths, partner and head of travel at Fox Williams, came during a Brexit advice session for members of The Travel Network Group at the consortium’s conference in Budapest.
He told agent members to "hope for the best, i.e a smooth and orderly Brexit with a transition period, but plan for the worst," Griffiths said, "because a no-deal Brexit is still very much a possibility".
Outlining the potential ramifications of a no deal Brexit on the travel industry, Griffiths pointed out that should the UK leave without a deal, UK bus and coach operators will lose their rights to operate in the EU.
He said the government was “looking for a way around this”, including potentially signing an Interbus Agreement – an international convention between the EU and certain countries not in the EU which would enable UK operators to operate “occasional services”.
However Griffiths noted “this was not guaranteed to be done in time” should the UK leave the EU without a deal on the proposed April 12 date.
Griffiths also highlighted that even if a coach deal was agreed, UK drivers would face further issues, with drivers required to hold a Certificate of Professional Competence which would need to still be recognised by the EU.
“This is very much a ‘watch this space’ situation,” he said. “But if you’re working with an operator that operates coach holidays in Europe then it’s something they should be looking at.”
Elsewhere Griffiths pointed out the potential legal issues for agents to consider in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
“Both the Package Travel Regulations and Atol regulations will remain UK law, but the big difference is insolvency protection,” he said.
“Under a no-deal, EU companies cannot use EU insolvency protection to sell to UK customers, and UK companies cannot use UK insolvency protection to sell to EU customers.
“Those wanting to sell in the EU will instead have two options – set up an establishment in the EU and use that for EU sales.
"Or remain in the UK and take out the insolvency protection that applies to each individual market you’re selling to.”
Griffiths also reminded agents that in a no-deal scenario UK retailers will be required to hold proof of Package Travel Directive compliance by organisers based in the EU or elsewhere.
“Any UK travel agent that’s selling packages to customers that aren’t based in the UK, such as Europe or the US, there’s an obligation on you as a retail travel agent to have proof of PTD compliance by organisations based in Europe or the rest of the world.”