Travel Leaders Network, which comprises more than 55,000 travel advisors and 5,700 agency locations in North America, conducted a survey of its members to assess the impact of coronavirus on leisure travel bookings. The results: Approximately 30 percent of travel agencies reported a “high to moderate number of cancellations” for China and other parts of Asia.
When asked about cancellations due to coronavirus, advisors reported very few cancellations of trips to other destinations, including Europe, the Caribbean, Mexico, Hawaii, Alaska, the Continental U.S. and other parts of the world due to coronavirus. Agencies reported that the vast majority of cancellations were for trips to China, followed by a lesser number of cancellations for trips to Asia outside of China.
John Lovell, president, leisure travel, supplier relations and networks, Travel Leaders Group, noted that despite the roughly 45,000 cases in China, there are only about 440 confirmed cases outside of China (including 13 in the United States), a total of less than 1 percent. For reference, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that this flu season, which started in late September, there have been at least 22 million cases of the flu in the U.S. with 210,000 hospitalizations. “Aside from a travel advisory to avoid travel to China, there are no travel warnings regarding any other destination,” he said in an official release.
While 64 percent of advisors said they had zero cancellations of cruise bookings due to coronavirus worldwide, the survey found that 13 percent of advisors said they saw a high number of cruise booking cancellations for itineraries that include China and other parts of Asia. Travel Leaders Network adds that cruise lines have the health and safety of passengers as their highest priority and are taking extra precautionary measures, such as enhanced screening and sanitizing protocols and denying boarding to passengers from China and Hong Kong.
Once the situation is addressed, 96 percent of advisors said they are confident their clients will rebook their cancelled trips.
Travel Leaders Group says its internal task force for major events is monitoring the coronavirus outbreak and ensuring accurate information is shared with advisors in a timely manner. Messages with supplier updates, such as airline changes, cruise itinerary changes, insurance policy updates, as well as resources from the state department and other government agencies are distributed several times a day. The company is also hosting webinars for advisors and corporate travel customers with travel medicine experts as well as risk management experts.
“At times like these, the value of booking with a travel advisor becomes increasingly apparent," said Lovell. "We are here to help our travelers in providing information, as well as rebooking. We don’t want travelers to give up their hard-earned vacations so if they are hesitant, we are suggesting alternatives in other parts of the world."
Travel Leaders Network adds that advisors should not make recommendations on whether it is safe to travel to a destination; rather, it is the traveler who must make that decision, ideally doing so in an informed manner and considering his or her own individual risk tolerance.
Travel Leaders Network advises travelers to review all official sources of information such as the CDC and the World Health Organization. Close to 400 travel advisors completed the survey.