Travel and tourism industries’ response to COVID19 begins…
COVID19, brought on by the coronavirus, is spreading all over the world. Originally emerging in China’s Wuhan province, its secondary epicenter is Italy – the origin of South Africa’s infections to date, with the virus having made it to our shores via a tour group coming home from that country.
Apart from dramatically affecting life at home (in some countries more than others), COVID 19 is expected to have a massive impact on the global travel and tourism industries, with airlines likely to at least $113 billion in 2020.

Many people are postponing their planned travels, while others are being forced to cancel their journeys, as conferences are called off, including the likes of South by South West in Austin, Texas, Google’s I/O 2020, and Facebook’s F8 event.

Airlines and travel companies could stick to the letter of their ticketing Ts and Cs, to fend off the clear and present danger of racking up billions of dollars in losses arising from canceled tickets, but some are taking the high road, and offering better outcomes to their customers:

Qatar Airways’ new flexible travel policy applies to existing
and new purchases, and includes waived change fees for reservations made to the end of June 2020, allowing free changes up to three days before travel. If you’d prefer not to travel at all, they’ll give you a voucher for travel in exchange, valid for one year.

Jet Blue in the United States has also offered to waive change and cancellation fees for any flights booked until 11 March for travel until 30 June – even on its most affordable flights.
You won’t get a refund though – but you will get a voucher that’s valid for bookings for the next year.

Airbnb has activated its extenuating circumstances policy in
mainland China, South Korea, and some locations in Italy, meaning that eligible reservations can be cancelled without charges, with guests receiving full refund (including fees), hosts can accept replacement bookings, and any ‘superhost’ status will not be affected.

– Ride-hailing service Uber is offering 14 days’ paid sick leave to drivers and delivery people using the platform who are diagnosed with Covid 19. This is a big departure from its regular approach of viewing these workers as independent contractors who aren’t eligible for this type of benefit, which is usually only available to full time workers. In a move that will encourage sick workers who can’t afford to stop driving to avoid exposing passengers to the virus, this is also in contrast to US federal law, which doesn’t compel companies to pay sick leave.

Top travel tip: If you’ve already got travel planned, and are thinking of taking out travel insurance to be covered if the Covid 19 outbreak escalates, make sure that you get ‘Covered For Any Reason’ travel insurance, as conventional travel insurance won’t pay out based on your own fears of travel to a particular location. It’s expensive, and you’re still unlikely to be refunded the full cost of your cancelled bookings, but it will at least provide some (financial) solace if your dream holiday plans have to be shelved.