It should be no surprise by now that Covid-19 is disrupting travel for millions of people and businesses around the world. In just over three months, the virus has infected over 110,000 people across 100 countries and sent governments scrambling to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus that has claimed over 4,000 lives.
As a result, governments have imposed travel restrictions and airlines continue to cancel or reschedule flights to and from the most infected areas. In the UK, airlines – including easyJet and British Airways – have cancelled flights in the past week and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has issued additional travel advice for an ever-growing number of countries, including fully-quarantined Italy.
The constantly changing circumstances means it’s difficult for businesses and consumers to know what they should do about existing and future travel plans.
What precautions can consumers and businesses take?
One of the main problems faced by travellers is down to airlines cancelling flights. While providers will refund the cost of the fare, businesses and holidaymakers have been left dealing with non-refundable hotel and car hire bookings.
To avoid this extra cost for unused accommodation and services, travellers need to adopt an ‘as soon as you book’ mindset when it comes to travel insurance. Or put simply - take out an insurance policy directly after or before you pay for the flight.
While this mindset is widely recommended by those in the travel industry, there is a sizeable chunk of consumers and businesses who prefer to hedge their bets and avoid taking out additional protection.
Those that don’t take out insurance ahead of time may find themselves stuck with a hefty bill despite never landing at the destination. Policies that cover cancellations to designated no-go coronavirus areas will only pay out if you got the insurance before the country is deemed off-limits by the FCO.
The earlier a business or consumer takes out a policy, the safer they are if – as is expected – more countries are labelled no-go by the British government.
Should travellers be concerned about coronavirus?
While it’s understandable that travellers are concerned about the spread of coronavirus, it’s important to retain some perspective.
The UK government is currently only warning against travel to a handful of destinations outside mainland China. Therefore, if a business or consumer chooses not to travel to a destination labelled out-of-bounds, they risk losing any money they’ve paid on a non-refundable basis for flights, hotels, car hire and any pre-booked excursions.
Going forward, the government’s outbound guidance will be crucial for any trips until the virus subsides – mostly because airlines may cancel flights or travel insurance could be invalidated by any political decisions.
Businesses and holidaymakers need to monitor the Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice page and ensure they are fully up to date before making any potentially costly decisions about their travel plans.
As cases of coronavirus continue to be reported in traditional business and tourist hotspots – including Hong Kong, Spain and Japan – it’s vital that everyone takes all the necessary steps to ensure they are financially protected and informed about the latest government information.
There is so much contradictory information surrounding coronavirus that it can be hard for businesses and consumers to see the wood from the trees. To avoid rushing into any rash decisions, they both need to monitor reputable sources of information, take out comprehensive insurance and – most importantly – stay appropriately grounded when deciding whether to travel or not.