With the global spread of the new coronavirus, Covid-19, and with the fears that this virus has generated, the travel industry is one of the sectors most affected, economically. There have been countless cancellations and delays that are causing an inevitable impact at both ends of the spectrum—the travellers and the travel industry.
Milénio Stadium had the opportunity to speak to Dorian Werda, Vice President of Operations at Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO), to hear her perspective on this matter.
Milénio Stadium: The effects of Covid-19 on world’s economy are already noticeable. Tourism is one the most affected sectors. One of TICO’s main missions is to protect travel consumers. In this context, what are your biggest concerns?
Dorian Werda: The current situation with COVID-19 is a very challenging one for travellers, as conditions are fluid and changing day by day.
As the regulator for travel agencies, websites and tour operators in Ontario, one of our key considerations is ensuring that when consumers do decide to book travel that they have the information they need to make an informed decision.
Similarly, if a consumer has already booked travel, it’s important for the travel agency or tour operator to update the consumer if there are changes to something that was advertised that would have impacted the consumer’s decision to book in the first place. All TICO-registered travel agencies are required to inform their clients about the availability of travel insurance, which can be especially important in a rapidly-changing environment like we have with the Coronavirus/COVID-19. Consumers should understand what their insurance policies cover and what conditions need to be met if they choose to cancel future travel, as not every reason for cancelling may be covered.
We encourage consumers to keep the lines of communication open with their travel agency so that they have the latest information about their destination and can make an informed decision.
MS: In the event of travel cancellations, what type of protection can affected consumers have? Will they be compensated?
DW: For consumers whose travel is impacted the Coronavirus/COVID-19, we encourage them to speak to their travel agent (if they booked with one), who will have the latest information from airlines and other travel suppliers.
Although consumers are subject to the terms and conditions of the travel services purchased, consumers should contact their travel agent to see if a concession or goodwill gesture is available from the travel suppliers, which could include the ability to cancel for a refund and/or the ability to rebook at no additional cost.
Additionally, consumers are encouraged to reach out to their insurance companies and credit cards to see if they have travel cancellation or interruption insurance, or the ability to request a refund on their credit card.
MS: What guarantees can customers have that the travel agency market remains reliable and fair?
DW: In Ontario, all travel agencies, including websites, are regulated and have to follow consumer protection laws. An important aspect of that consumer protection is ensuring that consumers have the information they need to make a well-informed decision about their travel.
When navigating a complex environment, like the current Coronavirus/COVID-19 outbreak, it can be difficult for consumers to know what their options are and where to get credible information.
When consumers book travel with a TICO-registered travel agency or website, they’re not alone. Navigating a worldwide health concern, with suppliers that can be located internationally, can be complicated, but Ontario’s travel agents are well-equipped to answer questions and provide the advice consumers need to understand their options. In the unlikely event that a consumer has a complaint or concern about their travel agency, they can contact TICO for assistance.