So much has changed since our communications earlier this month. The entire world has been hit with disruption of enormous scale and human impact, and our hearts go out to all who have been affected by the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19). The team here at North South Travel continue to work around the clock to help clients with imminent travel plans by looking at alternatives, rescheduling vacations and getting any of our travelers home who are currently abroad.
Our team is still monitoring daily (and sometimes hourly) changes. We are working closely with our travel partners to make available the most current information so you can make the decision that is right for you. Rest-assured, the entire team at North South Travel are responding to current travel disruptions and planning for the future, and are here to help you no matter what.
As an agency:
- We gather and share the most up-to-date information from trusted sources such as the Canadian Government, CDC and World Health Organization
- We are receiving daily updates from our global partners and all travel providers including airlines, cruise lines, tour operators, hotels and insurance
- We are working closely with our partners to advocate for flexibility and obtain the best possible results for our clients, whether that means rescheduling, obtaining refunds where possible or securing credits that can be used towards a future vacation
- We continue to provide support to our clients and answer many questions from past and current clients
With the current level of uncertainty we’ve compiled some answers to frequently asked questions below which we continue to update as we can:
1. What is COVID-19?
Coronavirus COVID-19 is a virus that can cause respiratory illness and was first detected in Wuhan, China at the end of 2019. It has since spread outside of China and is now affecting over 150 countries internationally, including cases in Canada and the United States. As of March 11th, the WHO publicly characterized COVID-19 as pandemic: https://www.who.int/dg/speeches/detail/who-director-general-s-opening-remarks-at-the-media-briefing-on-covid-19---11-march-2020
2. What are the current travel restrictions?
Effective as of March 18th Canada will suspend the entry of all foreign nationals (with some exceptions) until further notice. Canadian Citizens and Permanent Residents will be allowed home. There will be enhanced screening and presence of border officers at all points of entry. Anyone presenting symptoms will be taken immediately under the care of public health officials. It has been recommended that everyone returning to Canada should self-isolate and quarantine at home for 14 days. Only four Canadian airports will continue to accept international flights; Calgary, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver. Domestic flights and those arriving from the United States, Mexico and the Caribbean will be exempted.
Prime Minister Trudeau also has urged all Canadians to make their way home if they are still abroad. For more details, please refer to the Government of Canada Website.
In addition, many countries around the world have now starting shutting their borders (some without advanced notice) and air schedules are being disrupted which may impact travelers globally. We are already working with our clients who are affected at this immediate time. If you are travelling abroad and are wanting to try and return earlier than planned please reach out to your travel advisor directly or call our main office line: 604-736-7447.
3. Cruise Travel and Escorted Tours
Most ocean cruise lines announced in recent days that they are suspending their global operations for around 30 days on average (some more, some less). Several river cruise lines informed us that they will start their European season a few weeks later than usual. In addition, Canada has announced that it will defer the start of the cruise ship season in Canada to July 1, 2020 for ships with over 500 passengers and crew. We have not yet received details on the impact that might have on upcoming cruises.
Many of the major escorted tour companies we work with have all temporarily suspended operations at this immediate time.
We continue to contact clients who are affected by itinerary changes or cancellations, and provide them with alternative options and discuss solutions.
4. Will insurance cover cancellations due to coronavirus?
At this current moment, as the Government of Canada has officially implemented a Level 3 global warning to “to avoid all essential travel”, those who purchased "Trip Interruption or Cancellation" insurance for an upcoming trip before March 5th (when the provider changed their rules) have grounds to claim and try to obtain refunds through insurance policies. Separate to this, many airlines and other travel providers are offering options to postpone/reschedule travel by giving future travel credits with more flexibility than regular policies.
To encourage future bookings, many operators are implementing special exception policies for new forward bookings to reassure clients of flexibility and comfort.
Reimbursement amounts will vary depending on your plan and insurable trip amount. Ask your North South Travel advisor for more information for current plans or to help select the right insurance policy for your future travel needs.
5. Can I postpone my travel?
While current restrictions limit imminent travel, the majority of our clients are waiting as long as they can before deciding to postpone future plans. Over the next few weeks, the decision may be made for you: for example, when a cruise is cancelled, or a country restricts access to foreign nationals. However travel which is booked for later this year, we are all hopeful, will remain as scheduled.
Currently, the Government of Canada is recommending all Canadians avoid all non-essential travel outside of the country until further notice. None of us know when this restriction will be lifted but we continue to monitor the situation and wait for updates. Travel providers around the world are working to offer waivers and keep updating their travel policies to allow for flexibility wherever possible with the hope most people will postpone travel rather than fully cancel.
Nobody knows when exactly when travel will “resume as normal,” however most of our clients are eager travelers and the vast majority are opting to postpone travel to later this year rather than cancel all together. Many realize that the current situation is likely to be temporary. While nobody knows exactly how long travel will be interrupted by the Coronavirus, our clients are planning ahead to avoid finding themselves without a vacation later this year as Fall opportunities with cruise lines, tour operators and hotels are starting to fill up with the pent up demand. We have rebooked many guests on cruises and tours in the summer or fall and we are planning a “re-do vacation” for many clients later this or next year.
While we as travel advisors cannot make the decision for you on whether to travel, we are here to provide you with up-to-date information and assist you with altering any bookings you have made with us.
We appreciate your patience as we continue to assist clients with the most pressing needs – those trying to get home right now and those scheduled in the next week or so. We will get to everyone, but if your travel is not scheduled for the immediate future, we hope you will understand we need to prioritize our responses at this time.
The entire team at North South Travel is grateful for the support of our clients, and the partnership of our travel partners.
Travel brings in joy in dreaming, the excitement of the experience and the lifetime of memories that grow more valuable each day.
KEEP DREAMING. We are all in this together and we're be ready and waiting to help you fulfil future travel plans as soon as you're ready!
Further reading and useful links:
- CDC COVID-19 Latest Information
- World Health Organization Risk Assessment
- Government of Canada Travel Advisories
- Worldometer Coronavirus by the Numbers
- Registration of Canadians Abroad
- Public Health Authority of Canada
- COVID-19 Self Assessment Tool for BC Residents