Opening Borders Gives Businesses Breathing Space

Vala Hafstað

“This simplifies matters and makes it possible for companies to deliver their services,” states Jóhannes Þór Skúlason, CEO of the Icelandic Travel Industry Association, speaking of plans to open Iceland’s borders June 15. “General terms will be back, making matters much less complicated,” he tells Morgunblaðið.

As of June 15, the Icelandic government plans to have a system in place, whereby arriving tourist will have a choice between spending two weeks in quarantine and being screened for the novel coronavirus upon arrival. If they test negative for the virus, the will be allowed to travel in Iceland.

Opening the borders means that the so-called force majeure clause will no longer apply. The clause frees parties from liability or obligation when an extraordinary event or circumstance beyond the control of the parties prevents one or both parties from fulfilling their obligations under the contract.

Jóhannes states that in some cases, this puts travel service companies in a better negotiating position: “If a certain impossibility exists, preventing people from getting to an area, this can give them a right to a refund, even if the purchase was non-refundable. When the borders reopen, this impossibility no longer exists, in some cases enabling hotels to avoid giving a refund,” he explains.

He is not certain how large a part of booked services this would apply to: “I don’t have a clear idea of that, since companies have different rules regarding cancellations. Some don’t require a long notice [to cancel], while others do.”

He believes opening the borders may provide hotels and other travel service companies a chance to negotiate with future customers: “The parties can negotiate. Hopefully, it will also become easier to postpone a trip or to issue a credit.”

He adds that it will take time to rebuild the travel industry. “This will be a tough winter. Still, opening the borders is essential and helps protect the companies and thereby get them ready for the summer of 2021.” 

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