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Tour Operators Modify Hawaii Rules

October 16, 2006 By: Mike Jaccarino, Joe Pike, Camie Foster Travel Agent

HONOLULU–Tour operators have reacted quickly to the Hawaii earthquake, in some cases changing their change policies for short-term travel. United Vacations instituted a policy that gives people traveling through Oct. 18 one change to their plans without facing a change fee. Spokeswoman Tracy Clementi adds that United Vacations is working with travelers on a case-by-case basis. Similarly, Classic Vacations is allowing Hawaii-bound clients to change their travel plans without incurring normal cancellation fees. There are, however, some caveats, including that travelers must rebook to Hawaii or another destination to avoid the fees. The temporary policy applies to travelers booked before Sunday and who are traveling through Oct. 18. As for cancellations, Classic is not seeing many aside from Hawaii-bound clients departing on Sunday who were booked on flights that ended up being canceled, says Joan Ioannou, Classic's director of marketing. Meantime, Funjet Vacations and Blue Sky Tours are not seeing many-if any-cancellations, says spokeswoman Holly Botsford. She adds that the operators are taking their lead from airlines when it comes to changes. "If airlines are not assessing penalties for changes or cancellations, Blue Sky Tours and Funjet Vacations will not, as well," says Botsford.

At Creative Leisure International, staff swung into action Sunday night, says Dean Johnson, senior vice president product development, and is working with travel agents to modify and rearrange clients' travel plans as necessary. He says the situation regarding airline policies is an evolving one and Creative Leisure is following the carriers' lead. "Early indications are that they are being flexible regarding fees," Johnson points out. Collette Vacations currently has a large group on an NCL cruise that includes a Kona call, says Paula Twidale, executive vice president at Collette. She says that all is well and there have been no disruptions for the group. "The captain has been very informative and talking with people," she adds. Because Collette's tours are proceeding and the cruises are, Twidale says that if a customer chooses to cancel and hadn't bought travel insurance, they would be subject to cancellation fees. (JP, MJ, CF)

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