With Canada’s travel advisory still in place, should clients booking trips sign a waiver?

With Canada’s travel advisory still in place, should clients booking trips sign a waiver?

TORONTO — An agent’s ‘to-do’ list these days is mind-boggling.

All the different health and safety requirements at every point of their client’s journey, all the changing dates, all the information about what’s open and what’s not … it’s enough to make any agent want to wave the flag and surrender.

But the battle against the pandemic goes on, and so does the Canadian government’s global advisory against all non-essential travel. And that has some agents wondering, should clients who continue to travel despite the advisory be signing a waiver?

Lesley Keyter, CEO and founder of The Travel Lady Agency in Calgary, raised the question last week in our coverage of all the new COVID-19 travel insurance policies now available to Canadian travellers. While Keyter, like most agents, is all in favour of any COVID-19 insurance that offers peace of mind for her clients, she wondered if counselling travellers on travel plans with the advisory still in place necessitates a waiver of some kind.

“The challenge about getting the news out is the perception that you are advising people to go against the Canadian government’s travel advisory – to avoid non-essential travel,” said Keyter. “That could create a backlash from some quarters. Also I wonder as agents if we need to include a waiver when people book this type of trip. There is a lot to consider from our perspective.”

Generally a waiver isn’t necessary, since no client can argue that he or she was not aware of the risk of COVID-19 and related potential consequences for their travel plans in their destination, or during their journey. COVID-19 is now a known event worldwide, along with all the travel restrictions that go with it.

Gary Gaudry, President, Maritime Travel, says Maritime Travel agencies will not be doing any waivers. But Maritime Travel agencies will be offering clients COVID-19 insurance where available through the suppliers, he said.

Other retailers have a different take, and have developed new client agreement documents to cover their bases in these unpredictable times.

Dean Dacko, Regional President, Uniglobe Travel (Eastern Canada), says: “In this current ‘post-COVID’ environment where travel agents are acting more than ever in the role of ‘travel advisors’ it is very important to specifically detail what responsibilities, and accountabilities we accept on behalf of our clients when we provide travel related advise and booking services.”

Dacko says Uniglobe has developed a ‘Terms of Service’ to advise clients on the conditions of contracting travel services with its agency membership in Canada. “Our agreement applies to both corporate and leisure travel services, and will be available for use by all Uniglobe agencies and their agents in Canada,” says Dacko. “Specifically this agreement outlines the limits on liability for any instance, or event that may impact the client’s travel program.”

The new Terms of Service was developed by Uniglobe “to address the new post COVID environment,” Dacko confirmed.

While travel agents need to cover their bases, they also want to promote an informed but also positive approach to travel, even during COVID-19.

Rather than sign a waiver, one travel industry expert Travelweek spoke to said agents could ask their client verbally to confirm their intention to travel to their chosen destination on their chosen airline. The agent can then send a confirmation email, and the wording could go something like this: “Thanks for today’s conversation, during which you acknowledged that there is a risk of the Canadian border being closed due to COVID or otherwise, while you are out of the country, and that we are not responsible in that event, even if it means you incur expenses in time and/or money in getting back into Canada.”

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