Joining forces to help stranded Dutch travellers; Reporting centre bijzonderebijstandbuitenland.nl
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Dutch Association of Insurers, the Dutch Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (ANVR) and a range of other partners in the travel sector are joining forces to help Dutch travellers abroad who are unable to arrange their return to the Netherlands because of the COVID-19 crisis. In response to this problem, the organisations have adopted a concerted approach called Special Assistance Abroad.
The core of the approach is a scheme to assist Dutch travellers stranded abroad who will not be helped by a tour operator or airline. ‘We need to do our utmost to get these people home safely,’ says foreign minister Stef Blok. ‘Because of the huge impact of the coronavirus, this group in particular really has nowhere else to turn.’ Mr Blok stressed that this is a ‘complex and unique operation’.
The travel industry, insurance companies and Dutch central government have signed a voluntary agreement that assigns each of them an essential role. The website where travellers can register, starting today, is bijzonderebijstandbuitenland.nl. Once they have registered, emergency support centres will coordinate and organise the necessary transport for their return home.
‘Despite the tough times the travel industry is going through, we are taking our responsibility to ensure that no Dutch people are left behind,’ says ANVR Director Frank Oostdam. Dutch airlines will have first priority for operating these flights. If a return to the Netherlands is unfortunately impossible in the short run, the emergency support centres will where possible help people find a safe place to stay until they can return home.
The three partners in Special Assistance Abroad are earmarking up to €10 million for the scheme. In principle, travellers themselves will contribute €300 for their return from other parts of Europe (and from adjacent countries) and €900 from countries outside Europe. Countries that are adjacent to Europe are: Albania, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Egypt, Georgia, Iceland, Libya, Liechtenstein, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, North Macedonia, Norway, Russia, Serbia, Tunisia, Turkey and Ukraine.
Richard Weurding, Managing Director of the Dutch Association of Insurers, says, ‘We have to realise that this will be a mega-operation at a difficult time. So we’re calling on the people concerned to chip in. We expect that they’ll take some responsibility themselves for their own trip, shelter, alternative itinerary and transport.’ The three partner organisations emphasise that this service is meant only for travellers, not for Dutch nationals who are permanent or semi-permanent foreign residents.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in continual contact with the authorities in countries where there are stranded Dutch nationals who cannot arrange their own return home, in order to secure more extensive landing rights so that these people can come home as soon as possible. The Dutch diplomatic network worldwide is being mobilised for this purpose. In the past week a joint effort by the Ministry, the travel industry, airlines and insurance companies succeeded in arranging extra flights that brought Dutch people home from Morocco and elsewhere.
The following parties are actively involved in implementing Special Assistance Abroad:
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management
- Dutch Association of Insurers
- Dutch Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (ANVR)
- KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
- TUI Netherlands
- Corendon Holiday Group
- Disaster Fund
- SGR travel guarantee scheme (Stichting Garantiefonds Reisgelden)
For travel advice and questions about specific countries, go to: www.netherlandsworldwide.nl/travel-abroad.