TORONTO — To help travel agents reassure client concerns about the coronavirus, TICO has issued a special Registrar Bulletin that includes relevant tips and information.
Noting that it has received several enquiries from both consumers and registrants regarding the global outbreak and the Government of Canada’s subsequent travel advisory, TICO is advising agents of the following:
Conditions that may impact the decision to purchase travel services:
• Registrants are required to warn customers of the reports of coronavirus. Prior to reserving travel services for a customer, a travel agent shall bring to the customer’s attention any conditions that the travel agent has reason to believe may affect the customer’s decision to make the purchase. This would include any safety concerns relating to the travel destination at the time of booking, regardless of whether the government has issued a travel advisory for that destination.
Advising customers of changing conditions:
• Travel 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.
• After booking, if there is a change to any matter that is referred to in a representation (ie. an ad or brochure) that, if known, might have affected the customer’s decision to purchase, the registrant shall promptly advise the customer of the change.
Terms & Conditions:
• Consumers who have bookings to the affected destinations are subject to the terms and conditions of the booking, which may include possible penalties for changes and cancellations
• There is no provision in the Travel Industry Act, 2002 or the Regulation that requires a requires a registrant to provide a refund or offer alternate travel services because a government advisory has been issued.
• While some suppliers may choose to offer a goodwill gesture to their customers, registrants should consider all their contractual and legal obligations in determining how to address the situation.
Registrants’ responsibilities – accommodations:
• Registrants may be responsible for taking reasonable measures to ensure that the accommodations sold to customers are in the same condition as described by the registrant at the time of sale, when the time comes for the customer to use those travel services.
• If the accommodations are not in such condition, the registrant must promptly notify the travel agent or customer, and must offer the customer a choice of a full and immediate refund or comparable alternate services acceptable to the customer.
• If the accommodations are sold as part of a package that includes transportation to a destination, the refund or comparable alternative services must apply to the entire package. If the accommodations were sold separately, the requirement is to offer a refund or comparable alternative services for the accommodations.
Registrants’ responsibilities – flights/transportation:
• Registrants have an obligation to offer customers a full immediate refund or comparable alternate services if the transportation they have purchased is delayed or advanced by more than 24 hours.
• However, this rule does not apply if the delay or advancement is due to mechanical problems with a vehicle, ship or aircraft, safety considerations, weather conditions, a strike or lock-out or a force majeure (such as a natural disaster). In these situations, a refund or comparable alternative services do not need to be offered. Customers would be subject to the terms and conditions of the booking.
Yesterday the Government of Canada updated its travel advisory to China, warning all Canadians to avoid non-essential travel to the destination. The advisory also says to avoid all travel to the province of Hubei specifically, including the cities of Wuhan, Huanggang and Ezhou, “due to the imposition of heavy travel restrictions in order to limit the spread of the virus.
Meanwhile Air Canada announced it was suspending all of its direct flights into mainland China effective today, Jan. 30, through Feb. 29. Air Canada flies to Beijing and Shanghai from Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. The carrier’s flights into Hong Kong and Taipei are not affected.
Cruise updates include the cancellation of MSC Splendida’s 4- and 5-night sailings from Shanghai to Japan on Feb. 1, 5 and 9.
And in Italy, Italian health authorities are screening 6,000 passengers and 1,000 crew aboard Costa Smeralda docked north of Rome after a passenger exhibited flu-like symptoms. The ship had sailed from Mallorca to Civitavecchia for a Med cruise, but passengers are now stuck on the ship.