Eight Russian tour operators ceased their activities in outbound tourism. EcoTourism Expert figured out what to do if the tours were purchased from the tour operator that then went bankrupt. And what should the Russian tourists do in their country, if they did not fly to their vacation destination, and what should they do, if they have already arrived in the country of their vacation? How to stay safe when buying a tour, and is it possible?
By the latest order of the Russian Federal Agency for Tourism (Rostourism), eight companies were deleted from the register with the wording “due to lack of financial support”. In other words, the companies could not find an insurance company that would agree in the current situation to insure their risks when organizing tourist trips of the Russians abroad.
It is worth mentioning that in accordance with the law, tour operators are obliged to arrange insurance of their proprietary interests associated with the risk of non-fulfillment or improper fulfillment of their obligations to compensate for damage to users of the travel services.
At the same time, the amounts within which the insurance company is liable to the insured (tour operator) cannot be less than the financial security provided for by a special law. In the case of outbound tourism, it is 5 percent of the total price of the tourism product, but not less than 50 million roubles. It is clear that today when the outbound tourist flow has seriously reduced, many companies are not able to provide such an amount.
Murmania LLC, Berega.ru, Infinity8, Equesto, Divas Tour, Parachute, Travel Agency Alliance Plus and Sea Travelers Club of Sakhalin were among the companies that ceased their activities.
So, only 364 companies remained in the register of tour operators engaged in outbound tourism. It is worth mentioning that in the past, the number of tour operators was over 2.5 thousand, and even during the Covid-19 pandemic period, their number remained about 400 - and it has been gradually decreasing since then.
If you did buy a tour, and later on, your tour operator was officially declared bankrupt, there are several options for further actions.
If you have not yet left for your vacation destination, first of all, you need to contact the insurance company where the tour operator was insured. Together with the request for returning the money spent on your travel agreement, a copy of the passport should be attached, as well as the travel agreement, payment receipt, and the document confirming the travel company bankruptcy. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that the money spent will be returned in full, however, in this case, it is possible to contact the Association of Tour Operators in Outbound Tourism “Turpomoshch” (Tourist Assistance).
In the case when you have already arrived at your vacation destination and found out that your accommodation or services were not paid at all, or your return ticket was not paid, there are also several options. Firstly, if you have money, you can continue your rest and pay money for the hotel accommodation and ticket again. In this case, you must keep all receipts and any related documents that can confirm your expenses. After returning from your vacations, you should find the tour operator’s insurance company in the Unified Register of Tour Operators and demand that it should compensate for the costs incurred. If you do not have money to pay for the accommodation and ticket again, you need to contact the Association of Tour Operators in Outbound Tourism “Turpomoshch” and demand to provide your return to Russia.
Unfortunately, it is practically not possible to see that tour operators and travel agencies are in a pre-bankruptcy state and it is quite difficult to check the credibility of these entrepreneurs. To do this, you need an access to the company’s financial performance: whether the company has debts to airlines and hotels, whether it has a profit or loss.
However, there are a few fairly simple rules that, if carefully followed, can minimize potential damage to tourists and not spoil their long-awaited vacation.
Firstly, you should pay attention to the company’s reputation and read reviews about the company’s services over the past few years, paying particular attention to how it has been working with tourists in recent months. Secondly, you should not pursue cheap tours - there are no ‘last-minute travel offers’ on the market now and the low price for a tour should alert you, as this means that the company is not going to provide vacations at all, but simply “collects cash” to disappear with your money later on. And thirdly, however, this item should be one of the most important: if you buy a tour from a tour operator that you have practically never heard of, check if it is in the Unified Federal Register of Tour Operators of Russian Federal Agency for Tourism (Rostourism). A tour operator not included in the register operates illegally.
By the way, on the basis of Article 15 of the Law of the Russian Federation No. 2300-1 dated February 7, 1991 “On Protection of Consumer Rights”, as well as Articles 151, 1099-1101 of the Civil Code of the Russian Federation, the tourists can go to court and demand compensation to be made by a bankrupt tour operator for expectation damages or moral harm.
It is worth mentioning that this can take quite long, however, the courts in such a situation rather often take the offended party’s side, of a tourist. Usually, it will not be possible to get a lot of money from a bankrupt company - the amount of compensation will be determined by the court and usually, it is less than a tourist demanded. However, it is always possible to recover some part of the money, and if you have time, patience and ready to pay additional money, including for the consultation of a lawyer who can help you file a suit correctly, this is also worth doing.
By the way, in addition to the legal aspect, the authorities periodically offer other ways to help those tourists who bought a tourism product from a bankrupt company. So, at the end of the last year, the idea to pay 40 thousand roubles of compensation per person to tourists in case of a tour operator going bankrupt was voiced by Zarina Doguzova, Head of Rostourism. According to her, this amount is the average price for a package tour per person in case of buying a beach vacation tour to go to one of the popular destinations in Russia and abroad. Doguzova proposed to set up a fund for payments at the expense of deductions from tour operators of 250 roubles per a tourist who went to his/her vacation place.
However, this idea was criticized by the expert community of the tourism industry, because it could result in situations when some tour operators could collect money and take obligations towards tourists, and all other tour operators would have to pay for these obligations from the general fund in case of a tour operators’ insolvency.