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New norm amends the General Law of Tourism and regulates the provision of tourist services through electronic and digital platforms

On December 11, 2020, Congress approved the text of the law that amends the General Law of Tourism and issues other provisions. The law is expected to be approved by the Presidency of the Republic in the next days to enter into force.

This norm modifies Law 300 of 1996 and regulates new aspects in terms of sustainability, sanctions, promotion, and reactivation of the sector, as well as the provision of tourist services through electronic or digital platforms, among other things.

This new tourism law is approved at a time when this sector is facing a deep crisis due to the pandemic and, recently, to the winter season. According to CITUR Center of Tourism Information (“CITUR” from its acronym in Spanish) of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism (Ministerio de Comercio, Industria y Turismo in Spanish).  by July 2020, non-resident visitors to the country fell by 99.2% CITUR report for July 2020, that can be consulted in the following link: https://www.mincit.gov.co/getattachment/estudios-economicos/estadisticas-e-informes/informes-de-turismo/2020/julio/oee-turismo-julio-21-09-2020.pdf.aspx  compared to the previous year.

Among the most innovative and controversial issues in this law is Title 6, which regulates tourism services provided by operators of electronic and digital platforms. Until now, this had been a gray area in tourism services in Colombia. Definitely, new technologies represent a regulatory challenge in which the authorities must promote innovation, job creation and other benefits that these ventures provide, without neglecting free competition and the protection of consumer rights.

In this way, the law -in its article 32- establishes a series of special obligations in head of the operators of electronic or digital platforms that provides tourism services. The following were among the special obligations: (1) Have active registration in the National Tourism Registry (“RNT” for its acronym in Spanish). (2) Interoperate with the RNT so that whoever uses the platform has a current registration under that registry, which must be visible on the platform. (3) Restrict and eliminate advertisements from tourism services providers not registered in the RNT. (4) Pay the parafiscal contribution for the promotion of tourism.

An initial interpretation of these obligations could lead to the conclusion that all the people who occasionally or regularly offer their properties on electronic or digital platforms as hosts and for tourism purposes, must be registered with the RNT and comply with all the other obligations that come from the said registry.

The paragraph of the article provides that the fulfillment of some of such provisions will be subject to the RNT’s interoperability qualification and grants a period of twelve months from the effective date of the law to comply with the stated obligations.

Besides, the law indicates that the electronic platform of tourism services operator will be liable to the consumer for misleading advertising if it allows the tourism services providers to use the platform without being registered in the RNT.

Certainly, this is an issue that requires additional regulation, but the text approved so far imposes on the operators of the electronic platforms for tourism services additional burdens, that will impact their profitability and force them to modify their business model.

At CMS Rodríguez-Azuero we will remain eager for the president’s approval of this law and its entry into force, as well as for any additional regulations on this matter. We are willing to collaborate with your company to navigate this regulatory structure in all businesses that wish to develop.

Authors

Jacques Simhon
Jacques Simhon, LL.M.
Partner
Bogotá
Laura Ospina, LL.M.
Associate
Bogotá