I’m sure I’m like most of the world, watching the news & reading the media with bated breath about the Coronavirus situation. It is a scary situation, and one that is greatly affecting the travel industry. Now that the Summer is here I bet you are all wondering whether you should cancel your upcoming vacation due to the Coronavirus (if it hasn’t already been cancelled by your airline/hotel). Well, I’m no medical expert but I’ve scoured the internet for weeks to come up with the most helpful information to aid that decision.
In short, I think you may need to re-schedule your vacation for later this year or ideally 2021.
Are you planning to travel in the coming weeks? Contact your airline or hotel right away to see if you can get a refund or re-schedule. Even though it pains me to say this, but, if your travel is planned for June or July my advice is to stay home. Given the highly contagious nature of the virus, we need to take more precautions to reduce the spread of the virus.https://www.instagram.com/p/CBOgMrEpbKZ/
Read on for detailed information on how the Coronavirus may affect your upcoming vacation.
The places you shouldn’t travel to due to Coronavirus
Strong advice from all Governments is not to travel to Brazil, USA and the United Kingdom. Unless, it’s essential travel avoid other majorly affected countries like Russia, India & Peru. Most countries still have strict travel restrictions in place, read about when Europe is expected to re-open to tourism here.
Update: Italy has been placed on total lockdown until at least April 3rd, more here. As a result many airlines have cancelled flights to Italy.
Update: the U.S has closed its borders to Europe as of March 12th for 30 days. This ban only applies to countries in the Schengen area of Europe. And as of March 16th the UK and Ireland have been included in this ban.
Update: any tourist entering New Zealand (besides those travelling from Pacific Islands) must self-isolate for 14 days.
What exactly is Coronavirus?
The current strain of Coronavirus also known as Covid-19 is a type of Coronavirus that has never been encountered before. Thus, there is currently no known cure or vaccine. According to medical experts a vaccine will take at least 18 months to create.
The Coronavirus originated from animals, and started in Wuhan, China. Interestingly, China is no longer the main driver of the global spread of Coronavirus. There are now more cases outside China than inside. Experts say this is due to China being a unique situation, in that it can literally completely shut off an entire country with no uproar from its citizens. This would not work in most other countries. In doing this, China actually helped limit the further spread of the Coronavirus. Figures would be a lot worse had China not taken this drastic measure.
The virus at worst, can cause death & pneumonia. Most people who catch the virus suffer coughing, fever and breathing difficulties. Worth noting is that many of those who died were elderly or had weakened immune systems due to other illnesses (cancer, diabetes etc.)
How best to protect yourself & others from Coronavirus
- Wash your hands regularly and for at least 20 seconds with warm soapy water
- Maintain at least 1 metre distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing
- Cover you nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze
- Throw any used tissues into a closed bin
- Seek medical advice if you have a fever, cough & difficulty breathing
- Only wear a mask if you are sick – the Coronavirus is transmitted through droplets not through the air. That means you cannot breathe it in. Which means the standard surgical mask will do nothing to prevent it.
Fun fact – Corona virus has nothing to do with Corona beer
Well ‘duh’ you may say but CNN recently reported that 38% of Americans wouldn’t buy Corona beer “under any circumstances” because of Coronavirus. Just to be abundantly clear: there is no link between the virus and the beer.
How many people are currently infected with coronavirus
Globally, there are over 7 million (and rising) cases confirmed of Coronavirus with 408,811 deaths. Countries in Europe who have confirmed cases of the virus include: France, Germany, Finland, the United Kingdom, Italy, Ireland, Sweden, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland, Croatia, the Netherlands, Denmark, Estonia, Romania among others. The U.S also has some confirmed cases of Coronavirus. Asia has been greatly affected & there are a small number of cases in Africa.
According to reporting in Italy – one of the greatly affected countries. Everyone that has died from Coronavirus has been over the age of 80 or suffering from illnesses such as cancer, dialysis etc. Plenty of others have recovered.
Today, there are about 3,306,368 active cases but 3,605,284 recovered cases. Out of hospital discharges 90% have been discharged and 10% died. The overall death rate is 10%
The rate of recovery is now higher than the rate of newly infected!
Will my airline allow me to cancel my flight due to Coronavirus?
Most airlines are waiving change fees for air travel. American Airlines is the first of the big U.S airlines to announce this fee waiver. American Airline’s waiver , announced that travellers who buy tickets through March 16 to change or cancel them without without paying fees.
Delta and United have followed suit but there are certain stipulations. Your destination must be to one of the affected areas (Italy, China, Hong Kong & South Korea) in order to qualify for the fee waiver.
In Europe, British Airways has cancelled 22 return flights between London and Milan over the next two weeks. Ryanair has also cancelled all flights to Italy from March 13th. Affected customers will be offered a full refund or the option to re-book for a later date.
KLM and Air France are offering no change fees on all flights booked before March 31 and departing before May 31.
A full list of the airlines offering change fee waivers can be found here
Will my hotel allow me to cancel for free due to the Coronavirus?
Large hotel groups with properties in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau & Taiwan are waiving cancellation fees & offering more flexible re-booking policies. Which is good news for travellers concerned about whether they should cancel their vacation due to Coronavirus.
In Europe, now that the UK government’s advice is not to travel to Italy except in essential circumstances. Then you should be entitled to a refund from your hotel. Be aware, as most hotels have their own cancellation policies it is up to them whether they offer a refund to you or not. Luckily, most have amended their cancellation policies to be more flexible due to the Coronavirus. If you have travel insurance, depending on your policy you may be covered. Considering Italy is now classed as a ‘do not travel’ zone by most governments.
In Ireland most Museums and other public events centers have been closed to the public until March 29th. A lot of restaurants too have heeded the governments advice and will close until March 29th. Hotels still remain open but are likely to offer more flexible cancellation policies in light of recent events.
Given the recent announcement by the New Zealand government that all travellers into the country must self-isolate for 14 days. It is likely that hotels here will be offering flexible cancellation or re-booking policies.
Can I claim from my travel insurance because of Coronavirus fears?
If there is no warning from your Government for your destination, your decision not to travel will be classed as a “disinclination to travel”. This is unfortunately not covered by standard travel insurance policies.
Of course if there is a warning in place for your destination and your airline/hotel will not offer a full refund. Or the option to re-book at a later date. Then, you do you have the right to make a claim on most standard travel insurance policies.
If you have a pre-existing condition that means you’re at a higher risk of contracting Coronavirus and your doctor advises against travel. Then, you will likely be able to make a successful travel insurance claim.
Worth noting is that most travel insurance will not pay out if you purchased your travel insurance after January 2020. This is because after that date Coronavirus became what is a “known risk”.
My personal experience and the effect the Coronavirus is having on the global travel industry
I have seen first-hand how deeply the Coronavirus is affecting the travel industry. I work in the Luxury Hotel industry in Queenstown, New Zealand. If anyone has visited Queenstown previously, you will be aware the town attracts a huge number of Chinese tourists. Currently, the town known as ‘New Zealand’s tourism poster-child’ is eerily quiet.
You can find parking in town, the queue outside the famed Fergburger is non-existent and hotels have never been so quiet. This is all very unusual, seeing as February & March are peak season for visitors to Queenstown. In fact, I’ve been told in confidence that one large hotel in town is down $500,000NZD on the same month last year. That is crazy.
It’s not only Chinese tourist numbers that are down, in my role at a Luxury Hotel I’ve witnessed a significant number of Americans cancelling out of fear of the Coronavirus. Personally, I think this is due to the U.S media above all other media over-hyping the Coronavirus situation. Today or tonight if you can, compare the coverage of the Coronavirus on CNN versus the UK’s BBC and you will see what I mean.
I trully hope this article will help you to make an informed decision for your upcoming vacation. I think no matter where you are travelling to this Spring or Summer, the fear of the Coronavirus will be present. If you do decide to travel, use common sense and exercise care at all times especially in crowded areas. If you are not willing to follow the precautions, then please stay at home.
P.S. I will continue to update this article with up-to-date information regarding the Coronavirus and travel as it happens.
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