That destination wedding or once in a lifetime honeymoon are being shelved at a frenzied pace all because of the coronavirus.
And the hotels and airlines that make these milestones happen are getting hit hard.
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Jack Ezon, founder and managing partner at Embark Beyond, a luxury travel company, says 98 percent of couples who planned on going to China canceled their trips in January and February, and 60 percent have canceled for March. What's more, nearly 80 percent of its newlyweds who planned to travel during the month of March to Southeast Asian destinations like Chiang Mai, Phuket and Bangkok in Thailand and Siem Reap, Cambodia, have decided to rebook to another place, though those destinations are not overwhelmed by the virus. Some hotels are offering credits for a future stay to accommodate concerned travelers, Ezon said.
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"Many hotel companies have been very generous in working with us and offering refunds despite the terrible hit to their bottom lines," Ezon told FOX Business, adding that he's helped reroute travelers to places like Fiji, Sydney, Australia, and Queenstown, New Zealand, instead. "We are negotiating vigorously on a daily basis to get our clients out of cancelation penalties in places not directly overwhelmed by the coronavirus."
Transportation analysts say those who have booked in advance for weddings or honeymoons could also risk losing money if they haven’t purchased travel insurance in advance.
“Fear of a virus typically isn’t a covered reason for claiming a refund, unless you purchase an expensive kind of coverage called ‘cancel for any reason,’” said Seth Kaplan, an airline expert.
CFAR coverage ensures travelers can get a refund of half or up to 75 percent of their prepaid trip costs if they decided to cancel for any reason, compared to the standard. Those who have already booked flights to impacted coronavirus regions may also benefit from travel waivers being issued by some airlines and travel companies. United Airlines is offering refunds on nonrefundable tickets to China and allowing customers to make changes without penalty, though it’s not issuing refunds for travel to South Korea, Kaplan noted.
"If you're unlucky enough, but 'lucky' in this one regard, to be booked to an impacted region you might benefit from travel waivers being issued," Kaplan explained. "Of course, in many cases - especially to China and Hong Kong - airlines have canceled flights anyway, meaning in many cases you won't be able to travel and will get a refund regardless.”
It's not uncommon for the travel industry to plummet during a health scare. MMGY Global, a travel and tourism marketing agency, and travel agency Travel Horizons surveyed 2,644 American travelers in 2009 following the swine flu outbreak and found that a little over a third said they would change their plans. Fifteen percent said they would postpone trip plans until the outbreak subsided; 11 percent said they would choose another destination and just 10 percent said they would cancel their trip altogether.
South Korea set its coronavirus alert to the highest level, and more than 200 cases were detected in Italy, where there have been six reported deaths. Iran’s government, meanwhile, confirmed that 12 people died from the virus. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued travel warnings for Iran and Italy after both countries reported an uptick in confirmed cases, and it also raised the coronavirus threat to level-one status.
The outbreak, which is said to have stemmed from the poultry and seafood market in central China’s city of Wuhan, is transmitted from person-to-person contact, scientists say. The virus has already killed 2,600 in China.
Those planning trips to destinations where the coronavirus is present are encouraged to “avoid contact with sick people and clean their hands often by washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.”