General questions lately regarding Coronavirus

March 10, 2020
We have been getting many general questions lately regarding Coronavirus.  So here’s our personal observations, hints and how you can be prepared based on today’s climate whether you are alre.ady booked on a trip or are looking for your next one 

 Trip & Dive insurance does not cover cancellations or interruptions due to COVID-19 reasons.  However we still believe it’s extremely valid. Insurance does cover a multitude of life’s unexpected events that may prevent you from traveling, cause you to return home early, lose part of your package (such as missed nights or dives) or incur medical bills out of your network. Policies vary but this can range from personal illness & injury, bankruptcy of your supplier (hotel, airline etc) or work reasons. If you are booking a new trip, there is also the option to add “Cancel for any reason” if you purchase both the policy and this additional option within 14 days of your very first trip payment. This is often costly and only reimburses 50% of your trip when invoked, but it would at least cover half of your vacation investment if you cancel due to COVID-19, so in today’s climate it is definitely worth entertaining. Rebooking and cancelling expectationsIf you currently have a trip booked & your destination has not been greatly impacted and therefore is pretty much “business as usual”, then generally speaking resorts, liveaboards, dive operations and other entities involved on the ground have been enforcing their standard cancellation policies. Be prepared that cancelling or rebooking due to concern, regardless of how legitimate that may be, is not cause enough for resorts to override their policies. Should you have a medical reason that makes traveling inadvisable such as a compromised immune system, the resort still will likely not refund but you may be able to get a claim covered through insurance under medical rather than Pandemic if you have a policy that has a pre-existing condition waiver or you have developed the condition since purchasing the policy.  Most destinations right now are still very much operating as normal however things are changing constantly. Our general experience so far from the few countries where travel is currently not an option, the resorts and liveaboards for the most part have offered a full or partial credit to reschedule but no one so far has offered refunds. Frankly, having worked in various sectors of the travel industry, this is understandable from our perspective.  Most of the hotels and businesses in the dive travel world are small and privately owned. They cannot sustain empty rooms and dive boats for weeks on end, let alone giving money back. They will not be able to financially survive COVID-19. As upsetting as it may be to us as the traveler, the suppliers in these areas are all suffering an even greater impact already and if we want them to still be around in the future, a credit or raincheck is the absolute best option. If you are looking to book new travel and are concerned what will happen in the event that COVID-19 may impact your future plans, check on a resort or liveaboard’s contingency plan should their destination be affected before you purchase. And if you are concerned about possible bankruptcy, it’s another good reason to carry insurance. We are not saying not to ask for reimbursements as it never hurts (especially with large chain hotels), we just want you to be prepared for the response based on our general experiences so far and explain that in economies that are already being crippled by this outbreak, why a supplier not refunding goes so much deeper than simply “keeping your money”.  

  Now is a really great time to buy airline tickets!  The airlines are actually being really flexible right now, especially with regard to new tickets issued. The airlines are predicted to lose billions before this is over & they are incentivizing sales to get them through by offering amazing airfares AND no change fees should you choose to change your flight – be it date or destination. Policies vary by airline, purchase date and other factors so be sure to investigate before you buy, but personally speaking they’ve actually impressed us this time and between the great deals and flexible tickets, we are snapping up deals and feeling comfortable that we have a safety net if things change.  If you already have your flight booked on an upcoming trip, you need to check with the airline or your original booking source on your options if your trip has been disrupted or you are considering changing plans.  Policies on existing tickets vary by airline, destination and circumstances as they evolve. In some cases they have been waiving all fees and offering refunds. In other instances, particularly in unaffected destinations, full penalties and standard policies still apply.  

Take a deep breath and expect it to take some time Flexibility, understanding and patience is the key to getting through this as sanely as possible. So far none of our customers have suffered a total loss of their vacation when a trip has been disrupted by a COVID-19 policy/event out of their control. However being perfectly honest we can’t guarantee this will always be the case. It can be extremely frustrating to have months or even years invested in planning and anticipation of your trip as well as financially. We get it completely!
However there are no standard policies or procedures in the travel industry for a Pandemic and no standard laws to be enforced to protect the traveler. Each supplier in the chain of your vacation from booking source to accommodation or airline is open to deciding their own course of action in these circumstances. As there are new outbreaks or as things evolve, these policies can change rapidly. Try to bear in mind that everyone involved ultimately wants the same as you – for you to have the vacation you paid for and have nothing but amazing experiences at your chosen destination. But just like you they only want you there if it’s smart and safe for you and for the residents and employees. Remembering this is an unprecedented event, with no rules or guidelines but everyone is actually on the same side with a common goal helps to work through the issues & options.  Also grabbing a cup of coffee, making yourself comfortable and being prepared for either long hold times on the phone or delayed responses helps avoid frayed nerves. In recent days, an instant answer or resolution is rare, so try to avoid dealing with this during times that are pressing or you are already feeling stressed wherever possible. Everyone in the travel industry is working around the clock right now and they are being battered, so things are taking much longer and urgent situations must come first. Take heart in knowing that in most cases this is because they do actually care and are trying to resolve situations and salvage plans of each person on an individual basis and naturally this can take time.   Hang in there!   Have faith that before long you will be back on track on that beautiful beach with a cocktail in hand after an incredible day of diving and all will be right with the world once more. We certainly do!