As it approached its 50th anniversary in business, Pacific Delight Tours last week folded its doors, withdrew from the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) and notified customers and the press that it is no longer accepting business.
“With the majority of its business being to China, and given the cancellations and uncertain future caused by the media reporting about the coronavirus, we have decided it is in the best interest of our valued travel advisor partners, suppliers and loyal travelers to suspend operations indefinitely,” the company said in emails to customers and the press.
”We wish to reassure everyone that this is not a bankruptcy. All suppliers will be paid and all clients who cancelled have been fully refunded,” said Michael Kong, managing director of Pacific Delight Tours.
On Friday, USTOA followed up with a statement that Pacific Delight Tours has “suspended its tour operator business and is no longer a USTOA Active Member. Accordingly, Pacific Delight Tours no longer participates in the USTOA $1 Million Travelers Assistance Program.”
Under the terms of the program, travelers who have paid a supplier for a trip that then is canceled in a bankruptcy can be reimbursed from a $1 million bond USTOA requires of all members. That won’t be necessary in this case, as Pacific Delight paid for all trips it booked before closing.
Leigh Stephens Johnston, whose clients were booked through Pacific Delight for the Olympics, says she has been told their trip was canceled and their money will be refunded. She is out just her time, but is happy to be working with Goway to handle the bookings.
Concerns Over China
But other travel advisors are beginning to feel the bite of the coronavirus bug.
Linda da Sosa, a leisure travel consultant at Travel Experts, said that while she has no clients traveling with Pacific Delight, one of her two China bookings has canceled and likely will go to Peru instead. She has not yet heard from the other, who is booked on a cruise that ends in Hong Kong. “Everybody is on edge because typically an Asia trip is long planned for and anticipated.”
Kim Kellar, president of Cohasset Travel Inc., for example, has heard from three separate customers bound for Asia.
One couple, connecting through Hong Kong on their way to Australia, asked to be rerouted, and then called back saying they were considering canceling altogether. They had consulted with two infectious disease doctors; one said to go and one advised that they cancel. At this point, the couple still is undecided.
A second couple, vacationing in Thailand, first asked to cancel their scheduled Hong Kong stop on the way home, then decided to cancel the rest of their trip and fly home immediately instead. A third customer, a business traveler, canceled his trip outright.
Kellar said with just two days’ notice of the cancellation, her tour operator, Trails of IndoChina, authorized a 60 percent refund, which she believes her client will agree is fair.
“It’s a loss for everyone,” Kellar said. “I worked hard for free, the tour ops and hotels have absorbed the penalties and loss of revenue. But it’s only money. We should be thankful, as there are potentially thousands who will lose their lives or their families.”