Usually Lydia Sommer would be busy renting out accommodation during this time. The Easter holidays are just around the corner. “For Sylt, this is the first major rush in the year,” says the agency manager. The entrepreneur looks after 190 holiday apartments – for private landlords on the island. But since Thursday Sylt has been closed to tourists.
All holidaymakers had to leave, no holidaymaker is allowed to travel now. The holiday ban applies at least until April 19 and thus for the entire Berlin Easter holidays. Sommer, who does not want to read her real name in the newspaper with a view to her business partners, is rented out instead of rented out. She cancels bookings, pays her money back to guests. This is a heavy blow for the 15,000 or so islanders. “90 percent live here from tourism,” says Sommer.
tourists, no thanks
The way it looks in Sylt currently from all over Germany. To combat the Coronavirus , all of Germany is a tourist restricted area.
By law, all federal states have decreed that hotels, guest houses, campsites or holiday apartments may not be rented to tourists. Fines of up to 25,000 euros or even imprisonment of up to five years threaten hosts who do not comply with the rules. In most federal states, these restrictions apply until April 18 or 19, extensions are possible. Right from the start, Bremen has decided not to limit the measures, here they apply indefinitely.
I may not come do I still have to pay?
Holidays in your own country are popular, even over the Easter holidays. Many people, especially families, have booked holiday apartments or houses on the Frisian Islands, on Usedom, Rügen or in the Black Forest. In most cases they have paid a deposit, some have already paid the full amount. And now?
The legal situation is clear for consumer advocates: “Vacation homes, hotels or holiday homes can be canceled free of charge”, says Eva Klaar from the Berlin Consumer Center. “If the authorities prohibit tourists from arriving, you have the right to get your money back.”
Coupons instead of money?
The travel and hospitality industries have been hard hit by the Covid 19 epidemic. That is why some landlords try to make other, individual agreements with their guests.
They offer vouchers to customers when booking later redeem, or they are trying to find a new date for the trip. Because many repayments at once cost liquidity and in the worst case even the existence.
The problem: If the landlord goes bankrupt later despite the customer’s courtesy, the voucher is not worth much. Klaus Müller, head of the Federal Association of Consumer Centers (VZBV), therefore advocates solidarity and pragmatism in the crisis, but calls on legislators to secure vouchers in the event of bankruptcy in order to protect consumers.
What about the holiday home in Denmark?
Not only Germany, Denmark is also a popular travel destination for German citizens. The borders are tight at the moment, Denmark wants to protect itself against the virus. The entry stop is valid until April 13th.
What does that mean for the holiday home that you booked for the Easter holidays?
Cross-country constellations are complicated. “The law of the country in which the holiday home is located generally applies,” emphasizes Julia Rehberg from the Hamburg Consumer Center.
According to Danish law as well as German law, a free cancellation is possible if the holiday home cannot be offered by the operator, Pauline Stabenow from the European Consumer Center in Kehl knows. However, if the holiday home is theoretically available for rent and the consumer cannot reach it – for example due to entry restrictions – the cancellation is based on what is in the contract, emphasizes Stabenow. If it is stipulated that you have to pay, as a customer you can at least request that the landlord reimburse saved expenses, such as for cleaning costs.
In most European countries there are no regulations with regard to costs that are as detailed as German law, the Berlin travel lawyer Roosbeh Karimi points out. “That makes a legal dispute in other countries – especially in minor matters – uneconomical, even if you get your rights,” says the lawyer.
And what should you do now? Should the landlord offer a voucher or a free rebooking, you should accept that, Karimi advises.
Can I cancel the hotel abroad free of charge?
Das European Consumer Center , which deals with transnational consumer problems, recommends that you look at the general terms and conditions when booking a hotel abroad.
In many EU countries, hoteliers determine themselves how to deal with cancellations.
In Spain, on the other hand, it is legally possible to cancel a hotel room free of charge due to force majeure, in Italy and Austria you can rely on the loss of the contractual basis.
I travel in May and should pay now. What now?
The situation is tricky for people who want to go on vacation later, for example in May, but already after the contract should pay for the apartment.
From a legal point of view, the matter is clear: Since there are (still) no state restrictions for most of the federal states in May, you would have to pay. However, the customer bears a certain risk of bankruptcy if the landlord goes bankrupt in the meantime.
Travel lawyer Karimi therefore advises travelers to seek early advice from the landlord and to try to arrange a later payment date. If you do not do this and simply do not pay, you will be charged the full cancellation costs if private overnight stays are allowed again in May.
What about package tours?
The legal situation for the Easter holidays has been clear since Friday: The Federal Foreign Office has extended its worldwide travel warning until the end of April. That means: All package tours that should take place during the Easter holidays can be canceled free of charge. Vacation packages consist of two main tourist services, i.e. overnight stays and flights.
Vacation trips abroad that are planned and booked for Pentecost or the summer vacation, however, cannot currently be canceled without financial losses, warns the Hamburg consumer advice center.
On Sylt, agency manager Sommer is now hoping for better times. “Things really get going here in May and June,” she says. If the summer season also falls into the water, it gets down to business. For everyone on the island.