Travel Advisors Contend With Omicron Cancellations to Varying Degrees

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With the Omicron variant showing no signs of diminishing, travel advisors are grappling with cancellations, albeit it to varying degrees.

“Some clients are canceling – mostly from fear of testing positive and being quarantined outside of the U.S.,” said Claire Schoeder, an independent contractor with Elevations Travel.

“It is not so much Omicron in particular, but the testing requirements in some countries,: she said.

“Clients could not get their two-day arrival test scheduled in the U.K. and would have had to quarantine until they could get it done. They did not go all that way and pay to simply sit in their hotel.”

Richard Turen, managing director of Churchill & Turen, said that the majority of the luxury agency’s “clients understand that Omicron is not generally serious enough for the triple-vaccinated to justify a cancellation of a dream journey.”

However, customers are currently avoiding certain destinations because of Omicron concerns. “South America, the Caribbean and portions of Southeast Asia and China are on hold,” he said.

Other advisors are feeling the pinch a bit more.

“It honestly feels like deja vu of Q1 2020 with mass cancellations,” said Antoine D. Wilson, CTA, owner of A.D. Elite Travels.

“I literally just hung up the phone with Carnival because clients wanted to cancel their cruise due to the Omicron variant and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommendation,” he said, adding that the majority of his clients, particularly cruise clients, have decided to push their vacations back to a later date.

“The same occurrence has occurred with land vacations, and with some countries closing borders to Americans and others reinstating quarantines hasn’t helped.”

JoAnne Weeks, vacation division director at Acendas Travel, said a small percentage of her clients have canceled due to Omicron, “but the majority of those canceling are actually ill, or someone in their party is ill.”

The hardest hit have been cruises, “due to the recent bad PR from the CDC,” she said.

The CDC’s recommendation against cruising has resulted in cancellations. (Photo via Eric Bowman)

“We had a few multigenerational groups that were going to all inclusives over the holidays who canceled due to family members being ill,” Weeks said.

Similarly, James Berglie, owner of Be All Inclusive, said he has witnessed an increase in last-minute cancellations “because people are testing positive before they go, but that is to be expected given the surge of cases.”

“However, we have not seen any real significant slowdown in new bookings. Even in our cancellations, we are getting reschedules just for a few weeks later as people are still eager to travel – and honestly, people are voicing their anger with the restrictions and hoops to jump through even more as they are frustrated given the extremely mild symptoms of this virus.”

VIP Vacations Groups Manager Ryan Doncsecz said the agency is also seeing cancellations from clients testing positive prior to departure.

“In many cases, these travelers have no idea they are positive as their symptoms are barely visible thus creating a really hard last-minute switch for people who were looking forward to their escapes,” he said

“The worries amongst travelers continue to be focused more on getting stuck outside of the U.S. and missing work time, rather than getting violently ill or passing away.”

Meanwhile, advisors said they are taking a measured approach when counseling clients on trip cancellations.

“This is a fine line to walk,” said Weeks. “We remain supportive and empathetic, but our job is to only provide them the most current and accurate information, which allows them to make their own decisions.”

“I respect my clients’ fears, especially after just recovering from COVID myself,” Wilson said. “I’ve suggested to many to push their vacation back to a later date versus canceling. It keeps them at ease and hopeful, and I retain their business.”

Schoeder acknowledges clients’ concerns and discusses the pros and cons of travel to a particular destination in terms of such issues as mask requirements, vaccine status, required testing, dining restrictions, etc.

“I am upfront about what is happening but ultimately leave the decision up to the clients. I stress that they need to make the decision based on their own comfort level with the restrictions, if any, where they are traveling and their overall concerns with being exposed to and/or catching the virus,” she said.

“I do not want my clients to feel like I think they should travel when their concerns about the virus would overshadow their enjoyment of the trip.”

“Our philosophy is to do what a travel physician would do – we get out in front of it and recommend that our guests not travel unless they can look forward to their journey with enthusiasm and a lack of fear,” said Turen. “They will travel again in the near future, and we’ll be here.”

Source: TravelPulse

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