The current coronavirus (now named COVID-19) emergency continues to impact travel industry and clients are particularly confused. In order to inform the travel businesses, the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA) has issued a reminder of best practices for travel advisors.
The ACTA represents the retail travel sector of Canada’s tourism industry. Over 12,000 Travel Agents across the country work in our member Travel Agencies representing more than 80% of the travel business booked through a Travel Agency in Canada.
With spring break vacations vast approaching, many Canadians have to decide if they still want to travel amid the uncertainty caused by the spread of COVID-19. According to a recent report, only four in 10 (40 per cent) Canadians who travel outside of Canada purchase insurance for their trip, with residents in B.C. (56%) the most likely to buy travel insurance versus residents of all other provinces.
According to data on Canadian travellers who compared travel insurance quotes on Rates.ca, the most popular destination is overwhelmingly the U.S., with Mexico, Cuba, United Kingdom, Dominican Republic, Australia and Italy the next top picks for out-of-country travel.
Canadians who do purchase travel insurance consider the following issues when determining the type of coverage they need: 63% cite concern about the destination country’s health care system; 56% say they purchase coverage for the activities they will participate in while away, like skiing or diving; 50% state that the political climate of their destination is a factor; 45% cite concerns about the risk of disease outbreaks and 39% are concerned about floods, hurricanes, or other natural disasters.
If the government issues a travel advisory before you leave Canada, trip cancellation insurance will cover any non-refundable expenses such as the cost of your flight. However, if you decide to travel to a region or country despite a government “avoid all travel” or “avoid all non-essential travel” advisory, it may nullify your emergency medical coverage.
The Government of Canada’s travel advisory site can be consulted on this link https://travel.gc.ca/travelling/advisories and the last time we checked US, Cuba, Australia and Portugal were mentioned as “normal” and Mexico, United Kingdom and Dominican Republic were classified as “exercise a high degree of caution” and Italy were described as “normal with regional advisories”.
Milénio Stadium: What are the best practices for Travel Advisors during the coronavirus outbreak?
ACTA: Whether clients are anxious about upcoming trips and want to know their options, or they are looking to change destinations, or understand their travel insurance options or supplier terms and conditions, travel agents play an invaluable role. ACTA would like to remind agents of best practices in these situations. Recommended best practices:
Encourage clients to always use a credit card for booking – this is strongly recommended as a best practice. Cardholders may have additional securities offered by their credit card provider as stated in the Cardholder Agreement and/or Terms and Conditions.
Make sure you offer travel insurance – and that it is the “right” travel insurance – not only is this a best practice, it may be a requirement within provincial regulations. In Ontario, travel agents are obligated to advise customers about the availability of trip cancellation insurance, and out-of-province health insurance, before accepting payment. It is also important to sell travelers the “right” travel insurance dependent on their client’s needs and explain to clients what the insurance does – and does not – cover.
Supplier Terms and Conditions – It is important to inform your clients of the terms and conditions of each supplier – as each supplier may have different policies, including refunds or possible penalties for changes and cancellations. Also make sure you are up to date on suppliers allowing changes or cancellations due to COVID-19. These are changing often so be sure to keep checking.
Reference Only Official Sources – It is important that travel agents are using official sources to get the most up-to-date information on their clients’ destinations and to encourage their clients to refer to these resources so that they can make an informed decision. The Travel Advice and Advisories under the department of Global Affairs are the Government of Canada’s official source of destination-specific travel information.
MS: How many complaints did the ACTA get since the beginning of Coronavirus outbreak?
ACTA: ACTA does not have any complaints with regard to this situation and that is not really our role. We are a trade association and an advocacy group for travel agents. We recently conducted a brief survey of our members which revealed that they were getting calls from clients looking for reassurance and wanting to know their options if they want to change or postpone or cancel their travel plans. The survey also showed that most bookings were coming in as normal for the Caribbean and Mexico.
MS: Canada welcomed a record 737,000 Chinese tourists in 2018. With $90 billion in total economic activity and 1.7 million jobs related to the sector, tourism is one of the big national industry that contributes to Canadian GDP. What are the losses to travel industry?
ACTA: ACTA would have no way to measure this and at this stage it would be difficult to measure as there are many different sectors: airlines, cruise lines, hotels, car rental companies and travel agents.
MS: Can we cancel a trip during the coronavirus outbreak and get reimbursed?
ACTA: This would be up to each individual company that the consumer has booked with and also what type of travel insurance was purchased. I would recommend you contact some travel insurance companies to understand how travel insurance works in these circumstances. Each individual travel supplier would have their own policies and cancellations policies and terms and conditions.
MS: What type of travel insurance should we buy?
ACTA: Travel agents are your best resource to explain all of the different types of travel insurance coverage that is offered.
MS: The Canadian government has issued an advisory to avoid non-essential travel to China, Iran and parts os South Korea. What happens if people want to cancel a trip that doesn’t include none of those destinations?
ACTA: Then they likely cannot cancel without penalty, but this would be covered by the individual terms and conditions of the company (s) they are travelling with. Sometimes consumers can get some reimbursement if they cancel far enough out before departure and have not yet paid in full.