There is no denying that global travel has been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. As of 8 March 2020, COVID-19 cases have now exceeded 100,000 worldwide and have resulted in more than 3,500 deaths.
The travel and hospitality industry has been particularly hit by the outbreak. Inbound and outbound travel to China – one of the largest travel and tourism markets in the world – remains literally at a stand-still. In addition, airline companies and hotels have incurred heavy financial losses as tens of thousands of flights and hotel bookings have been cancelled across the world as the outbreak worsened, with Europe, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific being the most impacted.
Below are the four things that travel agents must do to ease the fear of travel.
Correct information is the best weapon in this age of fake news and misinformation. Understanding the risks of the disease is of vital importance. Risk includes travel risk is all about likelihood and consequence.
The likelihood of a traveller being exposed to COVID-19 is better than 500,000 to one. In comparison, the H1N1 (Swine Flu) outbreak of 2009-10 has infected a billion people and killed 576,000 worldwide, according to WHO.
Advise them of the safest destination
While it is important to respect the clients’ legitimate concerns about travelling this time, travel agents should not tell them not to travel or how to cancel their booking unless they insist. Instead, travel agents should redirect their clients to the best and safest ways to undertake their intended trip.
Redirect them to the safest destinations. There are a lot of destinations with low or no reported case of coronavirus.
Keep close tabs on travel advisories
Sudden travel restrictions affect everyone’s travel plans that will affect the profit margins of companies in the travel sector. Travel professionals need to be updated with government travel advisories in order to advise their clients and to create a contingency plan.
Clients must also understand what travel insurance policies do and don’t cover in relation to COVID-19.
Promote responsible travel
Responsible travel has taken a whole new meaning these days. It means that you travel while understanding the risks involved and taking necessary precautions while travelling. Travel agents should spread positive information being in the front line of travel and communicate the measures being taken by airlines, tour operators, accommodation providers, cruise operators and attractions to minimise the threat of COVID-19.
Conversely, travellers should travel while taking necessary precautions such as handwashing, wearing a mask if needed, taking vitamins, and getting enough sleep to ward off the virus.