TORONTO — As often as clients are calling with questions about the Zika virus, agents are wondering about their responsibilities and duty of care for affected travellers. The phone calls will only ramp up now that the World Health Organization has declared the Zika virus a global emergency.
The Travel Industry Council of Ontario’s latest Registrar Bulletin states that Registrants have a duty to warn customers of the reports of Zika Virus. “Pursuant to Section 36 (a) of the Regulation, before reserving travel services for a customer, a travel agent shall bring to the customer’s attention any conditions relating to the purchase of travel services that the travel agent has reason to believe may affect the customer’s decision to purchase.
To satisfy this section of the Regulation, a travel agent is obligated to inform customers of any safety concerns relating to their travel destination at the time of making the reservations, whether or not the Federal Government has issued a travel advisory in relation to that destination, says TICO.
Agents may also have a continuing obligation to inform customers of a deteriorating situation in the travel destination after the travel services have been reserved. “Section 37 of the Regulation states that if, after a customer has purchased travel services, the registrant becomes aware of a change to any matter that is referred to in a representation and that, if known, might have affected the customer’s decision to purchase, the registrant shall promptly advise the customer of the change.”
TICO says it has received a number of calls and emails in response to the recent reports issued by the Public Health Agency of Canada, the World Health Organization and the Government of Canada Travel Health Notice.
TICO adds that there is no provision in the Act or the Regulation which requires a registrant to provide a refund or offer alternate travel services because a government advisory has been issued.
“Registrants should consider all their contractual and legal obligations in determining how to address the situation,” adds TICO.
Consumers with bookings with a travel wholesaler to the affected destinations are subject to the Terms and Conditions of the booking.
Registrants should review their obligations pursuant to Sections 39 and 40 of the Regulation if the scheduled departure of transportation is delayed or advanced by 24 hours or more or accommodations are impacted.
The World Health Organization has not called for any travel and trade restrictions with destinations where the Zika virus is active.
The Public Health Agency of Canada has recommendations for travellers to protect themselves against mosquito bites. To access the Travel Health Advisory issued by the Public Health Agency of Canada, please go the following link: phac-aspc.gc.ca/tmp-pmv/notices-avis/notices-avis-eng.php?id=143.
The World Heath Organization (WHO) has useful information regarding the Zika virus: who.int/csr/don/archive/disease/zika-virus-infection/en/.
To access the Travel Report by country issued by Foreign Affairs Canada see: travel.gc.ca/travelling/advisories.