Experienced travelers already know the routine. Without fail, something (there is always something) creeps up and threatens to scare us away from traveling. If it isn’t some new illness making the rounds, it’s a natural disaster, threats of civil unrest or just plain disinformation that has people double-checking their travel plans and generally being fearful rather than excited about their trips.
These are not just general statements, either. According to a Travel Impact Survey Report, conducted for ASTA in February, 25 percent of all U.S. travelers have changed their travel plans because of coronavirus fears. More concerning, however, 71 percent of those U.S. travelers with a trip currently booked to China say they will either “definitely” or “probably” cancel those plans because of coronavirus.
Here’s the thing, though – the vast majority of those people who are planning to change or have already changed their plans were traveling to places where coronavirus isn’t an issue and likely never will be.
With a little knowledge, advanced planning, comprehensive travel insurance and a fantastic travel advisor, travelers can meet these concerns head on and separate fact from fear.
This is not a new illness; coronaviruses or one kind or another have been around forever. However, this is a new (novel) strain identified first in 2019. Viruses adapt and evolve, which is why you need a new flu shot every year and why there isn’t a cure for the “common cold.” This strain is a particularly nasty version of a coronavirus which spreads faster and is more dangerous. Countries around the world are stepping up identification and prevention efforts and travel to, from and within China is especially affected.
As with any big negative travel concern, knowledge is more powerful than fear.
Yes… and no.
It depends on the fine print – when did you book? When did you buy insurance? When did the disruptive external events become a “known event”? (Late January 2020, in the case of coronavirus.) It’s worth noting that many policies have optional upgrades often termed “Cancel for Any Reason” (CFAR) or “Cancellation Insurance.” If the trip is not yet booked and you have concerns, this is a reasonable upgrade to consider.
For those already booked, it’s important to know what travel insurance usually will cover: interrupted travel and emergencies occurring while traveling, and that typically includes contracting an illness (including the coronavirus). It’s also important to make yourself aware about what you need to do to under the policy to ensure a claim is not denied. For example, a policy may require the insured to see a doctor overseas as soon as symptoms are detected, rather than waiting until travel is completed.
Review your travel insurance policy with your travel advisor and insurance provider for your upcoming trip. Depending on the policy, there may still be a chance to upgrade to a CFAR level of coverage in the instance the outbreak continues to spread.
Suppliers are updating their itineraries daily. Work with your travel advisor who can assist you with any necessary adjustments. You can also check with the supplier directly, but your trusted travel advisor often will have access to knowledge and tools that you don’t.
The best place to find information about any major travel or health issue is from objective third-party resources. For health issues, this includes the CDC, the World Health Organization (WHO) or the U.S. State Department.
Every traveler has a different degree of tolerance for risk and must make travel decisions based on their personal level of comfort based on the nature of the risk presented. Travel advisors are not in a position to provide a “yes” or “no” answer when it comes to safety, but they can point you to those objective third-party resources so you can be fully informed to make the decision that is right for you.
Travel advisors are advocates for their clients and those that are associated with larger consortia networks that have additional resources at that their disposal to help clients – access to real-time information, and relationships at the top levels of cruise lines, hotels and tour companies.