Coronavirus has significantly disrupted the travel industry worldwide, and travellers are understandably nervous.
With the first known case of coronavirus recorded in December 2019, the respiratory disease has infected more than 190,000 people on the planet, with saturation coverage and Internet-fueled misinformation making it difficult for travellers to make an informed decision on travel.
Do your research
If you have booked a holiday, the most critical thing to do is check information daily from reputable sources.
In Australia, the best source of accurate, up-to-date information is the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s travel advisory website, Smart Traveller.
All Australians advised not to travel overseas at this time
As of March 18, Wednesday morning, the Department of Foreign Affairs has raised its travel advice to an unprecedented level 4 for the entire world. It is now at its highest advice level.
“We now advise all Australians: do not travel overseas at this time. This is our highest advice level (level 4 of 4),” it said in an update on Smart Traveller.
They are also urging all Australians travelling overseas to return home, as of Tuesday evening, 17 March. With major airline cutting international and domestic flights, this could make it difficult for travellers. On March 18, Virgin Australia announced plans to suspend its entire international operations from March 30 until at least June 14 and cut domestic flying capacity by 50 per cent.
This follows on from Qantas and Jetstar’s announcement on Tuesday, March 17 that they would cut 90 percent of their international flight capacity and domestic capacity by around 60 per cent until at least the end of May, as demand for flights continues to drop.
Check your travel insurance
Whether or not your travel insurance covers COVID-19 depends not only on your individual policy, but also when you purchased your travel insurance: a date that varies from 20 January to 31 January 2020 depending on the travel insurer, when the WHO officially declared the coronavirus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. After these dates, the virus became a “known event” and is excluded from some policies, says Insurance Council of Australia communications manager, Lisa Kable.
Kable says if you purchased your travel insurance before these dates, you may be covered for disruption or medical treatment relating to coronavirus. But she says this is dependent on the individual policy and individuals are encouraged to “contact their travel insurance provider directly to clarify their level of coverage”.
While each carrier, airline, hotel and operator has its own cancellation policy, Kable says she’s “hearing anecdotally there is some flexibility with changing dates or postponing trips, so it’s worth checking with operators directly”.
As of March 18 the travel advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs to all Australians is do not travel abroad and for those who are currently overseas to return home as soon as possible.
They also warned that if you remain overseas they may not be able to offer assistance if you change your mind at a later date.
“If you choose to stay, note our ability to provide consular assistance in some places may be limited due to restrictions on movement and other services,” it said in a statement on Smart Traveller.
This latest announcement may mean that if you still choose to travel overseas, or not return home, your travel insurance may be null and void. You will need to check with your travel insurance provider to clarify what this means for you.
If you have been impacted by the latest restrictions, Smart Traveller recommends contacting your airline, travel agent or insurance company to discuss your travel plans and options for cancelling or postponing current bookings, or to arrange flights back to Australia.
Where to next?
Coronavirus has made international travel hard to plan in the short term, but it doesn’t mean you have to stop dreaming. Keep adding to your bucket list with our inspirational travel content and visit Australian Traveller to plan how you will #holidayherethisyear to help bushfire affected towns around Australia in the meantime.
With the incredible diversity of Australian travel experiences and a number of regional Australian operators keen for support in the wake of the bushfire crisis, 2020 might just be shaping up to be the year you see more of your own country.
Source: International Traveller
By: Shane Hudson