Tour operators selling China understand the reluctance of many to travel to the country at this time, suggesting that those dreaming of visiting it can simply postpone trips, in part thanks to sympathetic airlines.
Bookings for the huge nation are on a downward slide amid global fears about the spread of coronavirus, with many airlines – including Air Canada – having suspended China service, and Cruise Lines International Association reporting, among other things, that “CLIA members have suspended crew movements from mainland China and will deny boarding to any individual, whether guest or crew, who has travelled from or through mainland China within the previous 14 days.”
A growing number of countries – including Canada – are reporting cases of a virus blamed for killing at least 361 people in China as of Feb. 3. The virus is believed to have originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Over 17,000 people have been infected in China, and other cases have surfaced in more than two dozen countries.
The virus recalls the SARS outbreak of 2003, which also put a damper on international travel.
Kimberlyn Dsouza of Royal Scenic, which has a large Asia program, told Travel Courier that that tour operator is seeing a “higher volume of calls for changes and refunds” for China travel and the damage coronavirus is doing to travel “will be significant.”
But she’s confident China’s long-term prospects are good.
“Traffic to China may slow down for now, but as soon as the health issue is under control, travel to China will resume in the same way people returned to the region after the SARS outbreaks,” Dzousa says.
Dzousa says Royal Scenic’s airline partners “have been very supportive.”
Pam Chung of Silkway Travel suggests those wary of heading to China now delay their trip, adding “most airlines have options for passengers to either postpone their original schedule or refund their tickets. The change fee and refund penalty will be waived.”
Meanwhile, Intrepid Travel has cancelled all February departures to China, with those who have booked the tour offered either refunds, travel on another trip or travel at a later date.
Intrepid spokeswoman Nicole Powell last week said January China bookings were down 31% globally compared to January 2019, and “we’re seeing the effects elsewhere in Asia as well, with bookings to southern Asia (such as Bhutan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka) down 13% in the last two weeks.”
Meanwhile, Chung said that coronavirus hasn’t had a large impact on travel “to and from Southeast Asia, except for China.”
Dzousa, in turn, said that travellers shouldn’t avoid all of Asia as “there are many parts of Asia as safe as Canada to visit. Use normal precautions of keeping your trip germ-free.”
Karisa Lui of the Hong Kong Tourism Board’s Canadian office also said last week that it had only had one coronavirus-related trade call about transiting Hong Kong en route to Thailand and no consumer enquiries.
She said Hong Kong’s government “remains vigilant” and “spares no effort in disease prevention and control.”
As of Jan. 28, Hong Kong authorities were scaling back transportation links with mainland China and restricted entry from China’s Hubei Province (of which Wuhan is the capital), the tourism board said in a statement.
Hong Kong tourism-related business, including airports, hotels, public transports, and beverage and retail establishments were running normally as of last week. However, prevention efforts have led to some attractions being closed temporarily.
Updates are available from Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection (chp.gov.hk).
“The Hong Kong Tourism Board encourages visitors to maintain personal and public hygiene. We will closely monitor the latest developments in Hong Kong and ensure worldwide offices are equipped with up-to-date information for dissemination to the overseas travel trade and consumers when necessary,” the tourism board said.
Following the successful relaunch of its eLearning program in the fall with the introduction of the Bronze level, Insight Vacations is now releasing the Silver Level on its Insight Specialist eLearning Program.
The second level of the new eLearning course is designed with agents in mind and focuses on offering a deep understanding of what makes the brand unique in the market. Whether a novice or an Insight Vacations expert, advisors are guaranteed to benefit from the course by having access to a bank of examples showcasing what makes Insight holidays unforgettable for clients and through the tools, knowledge and confidence to sell Insight Vacations. Further, Insight is currently offering the second tier of its Early Payment Discount (EPD) with savings of 7.5% when clients book and pay in full by Feb. 27.
Agents will be rewarded for completing the Silver Level through eligibility for fam trips and advisor discounts on their trips. The Silver Level includes six short courses featuring the highlights that allow Insight Vacations to show clients the sights and the insights, up close and personal, in comfort and in style and takes approximately 15 minutes to complete. Advisors will receive examples of the Deliciously Authentic Dining, Travel and Stay in Style, and Insight Experiences clients will enjoy along an Insight journey. They’ll also gain a deep understanding of what Smaller Group Camaraderie means and about Passionate Travel Directors who are experts at delivering seamless, enchanting travel experiences.
The Insight Specialist Gold Level will be available at a later date and will provide in-depth information on Insight’s brochure and the destinations offered on its magical journeys, as well as tools for selling.