NEW YORK — With COVID-19, otherwise known as ‘coronavirus’, still dominating headlines around the world, Travel Leaders Network has unveiled the results of a new survey that assesses the impact of the new disease on leisure travel bookings.
After surveying approximately 400 travel advisors across Canada and the United States, the network found that while approximately 30% of travel agencies reported a high to moderate number of cancellations for China and other parts of Asia, few reported many cancellations to other destinations.
“It is important to keep this in perspective,” said John Lovell, President, Leisure Travel, Supplier Relations & Networks, Travel Leaders Group. “While it’s true that there are roughly 45,000 cases in China, there are about 440 confirmed cases outside of China and 13 in the United States. Less than 1% of the cases are outside of China. Aside from a travel advisory to avoid travel to China, there are no travel warnings regarding any other destination.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that with 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.
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. 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. For example, advisors reporting no cancellations outside Asia ranged from 81% to 93%, depending on the destination.
A total of 64% of advisors said they had zero cancellations of cruise bookings due to coronavirus worldwide. The survey also found that 13% of advisors said they saw a high number of cruise booking cancellations with the primary impact on itineraries that include China and other parts of Asia, said Lovell. With the health and safety of passengers the highest priority, cruise lines 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% of advisors said they are confident their clients will rebook their cancelled trips.
“While we are getting inquiries, we are not seeing many cancellations outside of China and Asia,” continued Lovell. “This is the peak winter break travel period for sun and fun destinations like Mexico and the Caribbean. We are not seeing those destinations impacted by this. Cruise bookings in the Caribbean, Europe and Alaska are solid. People are not going to give up their vacations or stop travelling.”
Travel Leaders Group’s internal task force for major events is monitoring the outbreak of coronavirus 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. We are here to help our travelers in providing information, as well as rebooking. We don’t want travellers to give up their hard-earned vacations so if they are hesitant, we are suggesting alternatives in other parts of the world,” said Lovell.