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March 12, 2020 — The breakout of COVID-19 is affecting the entire world, and the travel industry is — for obvious reasons — on the front lines of the fallout. Travelers are rightfully worried about how the virus will affect their travel plans, both to regions considered hotspots of the illness and to places that have yet to report an epidemic. In a situation that continues to rapidly develop by the day, we want to share with you the latest information we have now.
Many travelers have already reached out to our customer service team with questions regarding their existing bookings, as well as about booking future stays. “We can’t tell you whether or not to travel,” says Elissa Cofield, Tablet’s co-head of customer service. But as far as feeling secure that you’re making the best decisions, “we can tell you what we’re seeing.”
We’re grateful that the vast majority of our hotels, when faced with travelers whose plans have been suddenly disrupted by COVID-19, have been flexible and immensely compassionate, working with our customer service team to adjust their policies when needed. It’s a trend we’re now seeing across the industry, with major airlines including JetBlue, United, Delta, and American all waiving certain cancellation or change fees.
Both airlines and hotels continue to monitor and respond to the changing circumstances, as of now implementing increased measures to stop the spread of pathogens, with a large hotel group like Marriott outlining their enhanced protocols on their website and others reaching out to Tablet directly. The Fullerton in Singapore, for instance, informed us that while operations continue at their property, they’ve taken measures that include “daily temperature taking for guests, staff, suppliers and vendors; increased frequency of cleaning and disinfecting of common facilities and vacated guest rooms,” as well as simple actions such as the “provision of hand sanitizers in the hotels’ public areas and dining outlets.”
If you must travel now or are planning future travel, our first piece of advice would be to search for hotels that show cancellable rates. These rates are widely available across every region, and are noted with a “free cancellation” notice under the price, along with the date before which you can cancel without penalty. Nearly every hotel on Tablet will have a free cancellation rate, and for most city-based hotels, that means you have until three days before your arrival to cancel. Hotels in more remote locations might require up to 14 days of notice.
We’ve been asked for our thoughts on travel insurance, so we reached out to Squaremouth, a travel insurance comparison site, for their expertise. A representative told Tablet that “Squaremouth.com is only recommending purchasing a Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) policy.” This type of policy, an add-on to standard coverage that usually reimburses up to 75% of trip costs, indeed covers “fear of traveling due to the coronavirus… or simply not wanting to travel to a country that may be affected.” CFAR is most prevalent in the United States, but insurance is always governed by local ordinances. Check with your provider and read your policy carefully for details.
While we’ve observed many travelers canceling hotel stays outright, many others are postponing trips, receiving hotel credits and planning to use them later in the year. We hope this tendency continues, and that the Tablet community will support our hotels in the hardest-hit areas by visiting them when concerns over health risks diminish.
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