Czech holidaymakers left stranded by travel agency once again

14-07-2003

The summer holidays turned sour for 300 Czechs who arrived in Croatia on Saturday, only to find out that their travel agency had not arranged their stay in hotels, or their journey back. According to a 1999 law, insurance against bankruptcy is obligatory for travel agencies. Nevertheless, every year a certain number of Czech tourists find themselves abandoned in foreign countries. The case of the Harmonie Medical travel agency is not the first, and most likely not the last, this year.

The Czech tourists, among them a number of physically handicapped people and convalescents recuperating after operations, had paid between 15-30,000 crowns (500-1000 euros) for a package holiday on the Dalmatian island of Vis. After a long bus journey, the hotel refused to put them up, saying the North Moravian travel agency has not paid for their stay, and still owes the hotel money from last year.

The Czech consulate in the city of Split arranged for the return of 94 tourists on Saturday night. Some of the remaining tourists have found private accommodation and others have finally been put up in the hotel. However, if the Harmonie Medical agency does not pay by Tuesday, they will have to move out. Czech Radio managed to contact the director and owner of the travel agency Hana Viteckova over the phone.

"I am deeply sorry for the clients because this is terrible. It is terrible that clients were not put up after the journey. I am deeply sorry and all the clients will receive compensation. Believe me, it is like being stabbed in the heart."

The Czech consulate in Split received first complaints about the travel agency in April this year and forwarded them to the Ministry for Local Development and the Association of Travel Agencies. The Ministry found out last December that the insurance policy of Harmonie Medical was not valid and asked the district trade office in Opava, North Moravia, to withdraw the agent's licence. The regional trade office, however, revoked the move.

If Hana Viteckova fails to pay for the 120 clients currently staying at a hotel on the island of Vis, the Czech consulate will be able to arrange to bring all of them home by bus. The Czech Republic's consul to Split, Veronika Honcova, said the travel agency refused an offer of air transport on Saturday.

"We got an offer from the Fischer travel agency, but it could not be arranged for reasons of time. We asked the delegate of Harmonie Medical to inform the clients but she did not do it. Nevertheless, in case the director of Harmonie Medical, Mrs Viteckova does not pay her debts, we have transport arranged for everybody."

This year, four travel agents in the Czech Republic have announced bankruptcy and according to experts, two to three others are currently in financial difficulties. It is recommended to always check with the agency if it has the necessary insurance before you give them any money.

The list of travel agents insured for the case of bankruptcy can be found at www.pojistene-ck.cz.

14-07-2003