In the aftermath of the Iceland volcanic ash cloud that disrupted travel to Europe for hundreds of thousands of travelers, the U.S. Tour Operators Association (USTOA) reports that a vast majority of members (89 percent) responding to an informal poll have rebooked travelers on future trips.
“All of our respondents reported that they were assisting their clients either by rebooking for future trips, offering credits for future travel, or refunding payments,” said John Stachnik, USTOA chairman.
Slightly over 60 percent said they were offering credits toward future trips, while nearly 30 percent of respondents said they would provide refunds. Nearly 80 percent said they would rebook and either credit or refund a trip.
Slightly more than 20 percent said they suggest clients purchase a waiver or travel insurance for future trips, and slightly over 10 percent said they were waiving cancellation fees and rerouting travelers returning home.
Some companies, such as Travel Bound, are waiving cancellation fees and rebooking without penalty, while Paul Wiseman, president, Trafalgar Tours, noted that, “we are telling clients to travel and join the tour."
“Thankfully, many of the hotels, airlines and our other partners have been very cooperative on waiving cancellation fees and enabling people to rebook their travel plans for alternate dates," says Harry Dalgaard, president of Avanti Destinations . "Also, working with a tour operator with years of experience and strong relationships empowers travelers, and gives them a safety net they wouldn't have, if they made all their arrangements by themselves.”
A number of responding USTOA members noted the importance of travel insurance. “We actually rebooked passengers, offered credits for future travel and are using this incident to further promote the need to purchase travel insurance to our incoming consumers,” noted Greg Fischbein, president, Contiki.
“We always encourage our clients to purchase travel insurance, and situations like Iceland's volcanic ash cloud or Peru's floods are perfect examples of why travel insurance is so important, adds Avanti’s Dalgaard.
“Our clients are automatically offered travel insurance in the first proposal/offer sent regarding their travel to any destination we offer,” says Laudie Hanou, vice president, SITA World Tours, while Pamela Lassers, director of media relations, Abercrombie & Kent, echoed this, adding, “We always include travel insurance in our quotes; a client declines travel insurance in writing.”
The USTOA poll is based on responses from 18 representative companies.
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