It is without a doubt, one of the hardest industries to be hit by the COVID-19 pandemic is travel. With most borders closed and countries warning against non-essential travel, many are scrambling to figure out what to do about future holidays and what their rights are when it comes to cancelled trips. So what are your rights as a traveller and what does the future of travel hold for all of us? We spoke with travel and personal finance expert, and founder of the blog Money We Have, Barry Choi, on everything you need to know when it comes to travel and the coronavirus.
With all travel restricted indefinitely, trips booked have evidently been cancelled or postponed. What are some basic rights that travellers should be aware of during these unprecedented times?
Basic rights are something that's hard to define when it comes to cancelled trips. Generally speaking, you're at the mercy of the refund policy. For example and generally speaking, if you cancel your flight due to COVID-19, many airlines are issuing a credit. You would only be eligible for a refund if the airline changed the flight time by a certain amount of time or if they cancelled your flight. Again, you really need to read the details of your refund policy.
If you have travel insurance, you might be able to make a claim, but if the airline or other travel provider has issued a credit, you may have to way for that credit to expire before you can make a claim. A credit card chargeback is another potential option, but remember, the merchant has the right to explain their position so a refund is not guaranteed.
As the future of travel is currently uncertain, what advice would you give to people who are thinking about booking trips once things start to normalize again?
Having travel insurance was a must pre-COVID-19 and will continue to be so moving forward
Having travel insurance was a must pre-COVID-19 and will continue to be so moving forward. That said, you need to ensure that your travel insurance covers COVID-19 as some insurance providers are no longer offering protection for it. You'll also want to ensure that any travel you book has a cancellation policy that you're happy with. Paying a premium for a fully refundable booking will no longer seem like a high price to pay. Washing your hands often and wearing a mask if you're sick will never go out of fashion after this.
The travel landscape will surely not be the same once restrictions start to ease up. What are some things you think people can expect? What are some of your predictions?
I suspect domestic travel will be quite popular once things start to normalize. The demand for international flights/travel will probably decrease so it's a good time to explore Canada. Plus, our economy could really use the help. I'm guessing there will be travel deals available, but only when travel restrictions lift and there's a slow demand. Airlines, hotels and cruise ships will make cleanliness a priority and there will likely be more contactless points moving forward. I expect the demand for cruises to be slow at the start due to poor headlines during the pandemic, but I also think they'll offer the best promotions which may lure people back.
Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel.