Word from the President 2013

Michael Wukoschitz's picture

President's Message December 2013

Dear friends,

30 Years of IFTTA – that means 30 years of a very unique group of lawyers. This experience was once again obvious at our recent 24th World Conference in Prague. The new participants were amazed by the high level of professional exchange on the one hand and the warmth and friendliness within IFTTA members on the other. 42 participants who represented no less than 22 nations from Australia to USA and Canada and from Argentina and Brasil to Russia and Japan underlined the broad international character of IFTTA and the beautiful historical city of Prague added its unique flair to the success of the conference.

What is the miracle of IFTTA? It’s the spirit that characterizes IFTTA from the very first moment of its foundation back in 1983. The particular way of dealing with each other in a mixture of professional respect and true cordiality was introduced by the founders and the first generation of IFTTA members, many of which are still active in IFTTA. IFTTA can and always will be proud of these personalities.

Actually, the Prague conference united members of this very first generation with enthusiastic youngsters ready and eager to renew and continue what IFTTA is about.

Anyway, apart from reminiscence, the 24th IFTTA Conference brought very encouraging specific results for the further development of IFTTA:

The representative of UNWTO was impressed by the way that IFTTA was analyzing the UNWTO draft for an international convention on the protection of tourists and tourism service providers in several working groups which commented on this draft. He therefore will recommend to the Secretary General to officially invite IFTTA to take part in the next UNWTO working group on the convention. A big achievement for IFTTA. Moreover; the personal experience of an IFTTA meeting will most probably lead into a revised cooperation agreement between our two organisations early next year covering various fields of cooperation from a travel and tourism law data base to an involvement of IFTTA in UNWTO’s International Tourism Forum for Parliamentarians.

IFTTA will also continue to contribute comments and suggestions regarding regional legislation in travel and tourism like the recent EU proposals on air passenger rights and package travel which were also discussed at the conference.

Another big achievement was the formation of a new committee called “IFTTA Young Professionals”. This committee will serve as a particular group for young IFTTA members up to the age of 35. These young lawyers have contributed a lot to the conference and some of them have even presented papers which all were of high quality. Their commitment and friendship is the fertile soil on which IFTTA’s future can grow and bloom.

Special thanks, of course, go to the members of the board including our emeritus presidents and board members who by their efforts have made all this possible. I am confident  that the new board members who have been elected at the AGM will add new ideas and perspectives and help IFTTA to remain as vibrant and lively as we could experience it in Prague.

So we all look forward to our next IFTTA world conference in Dublin in 2014 which will be another jubilee: the 25th IFTTA World Conference.

Wishing all RRa readers and IFTTA members a joyful and relaxed holiday season as well as a successful new year I remain

With kind regards

Michael Wukoschitz

(IFTTA President)

Michael Wukoschitz's picture

President's Message April 2013

Dear IFTTA members, dear friends,

While the revision of the European Package Travel Directive is still delayed, the European Commission has recently surprised us with a proposal for an amended Air Passenger Rights Regulation. Because of its unclear rules and vage definitions , the existing Regulation 261/2004 has been subject to various decisions of the European Court of Justice most of which showed a tendency to extend passenger rights – sometimes far beyond the wording of the Regulation like in the widely disputed Sturgeon judgement and its recent subsequent decisions. At first glance it seems that the new draft seeks to please both parties by introducing some new rights for the passengers on the one hand and alleviate some of the consequences from CJEU jurisprudence for the carriers on the other hand. The success of these efforts is rather questionable.

In the USA passenger rights also have become an important aspect of travel law, enforced though by the DOT rathern than by private actions of affected passengers.

Despite the emphasis on „consumer protection“ the current focus on passenger rights shows a different perspective: not the consumer as the weeker part in contract negotiations is the objective of protection rules (like in traditional consumer protection laws) but a person exposed to a particular situation like traveling by air or sea. This aspect also has been discussed with regard to a new European Package Travel Directive.

While Europe keeps waiting for a renewe Package Travel Directive, the UNWTO has started to work on an international convention for the protection of travellers. It will be exciting to see the results and how they fit into the existing system of conventions, supranational and national rules.

Another important issue, of course, is the enforcement of all these rights. Is reasonable to have passengers filing court actions? Should administrative bodies take care? Or is it better to open doors for alternative dispute resolution concepts?

I am convinced that there isn't a general answer to these questions. The answer rather depends on the courts system (including costs of taking a matter to court), the legal culture and tradition of a country, the effectiveness of administrative bodies and other circumstances.

Issues like these prove the importance of an international forum as provided by IFTTA where experiences can be exchanged, different concepts can be discussed and the characteristics of various legal cultures can be compared. While electronic communication is increasing and allows for fast dissemination of news, the conferences and regional workshops are the highlights of IFTTA because of the intensity of exchange and their warm and friendly atmosphere. The recent regional workshops in Fort Lauderdale and Yerevan, both perfectly organized, served as another prove of this experience.

But it should also be our task as IFTTA not only to talk about travel and tourism law matters but to actively get involved in the international or supranational legislation processes by presenting proposals and forwarding observations to the legislator. Who if not the members of IFTTA have the expertise in this field of law? Who if not the members of IFTTA are used to analyse travel and tourism law issues from different perspectives on an international level? Which organisation if not IFTTA combines passion and experience in travel and tourism law beyond national borders?

Thus I hope that the 30th year of IFTTA will become a year of increased international recognition of its abilities and cordially invite you all to contribute.

Best regards

Michael Wukoschitz