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Over the weekend, Tourism Minister, Senator Birmingham reaffirmed Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement of a continued international travel ban for Australians on all non-essential overseas travel.
While not being drawn to any particular dates when the ban will be lifted, he did say, “December is a long time away, and it’s very hard to make predictions about what will happen then” to ABC News Breakfast.”
So where does that leave you if you have travel booked for later in 2020 or even 2021?
Not sure if your trip will be cancelled?
While you may have been planning your trip for months, it may seem frustrating that 2 months out that travel companies do not have a firm guarantee about when their operations will restart again.
As all outbound travel is being directed by Australian Government travel guidelines, travel companies are also bound by these restrictions. With updates changing daily in Australia, as well as restrictions on tourism and inbound travel overseas, travel companies are trying to be as realistic as possible on operations returning. Although COVID-19 infections are slowing in Australia, tourism companies will also want to ensure that the international destination they are operating in is also safe for their customers to travel to.
Will you get a refund?
Airlines, cruise lines, hotels and tour companies all have different policies, but are trying to be as flexible as possible.
Companies such as Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (and Celebrity Cruises and Azamara) have created a Cruise with Confidence Guarantee, which enables you to cancel any sailing up to 48 hours prior until 1st September 2020 and receive 100% Future Cruise Credit for sailings until the end of 2021. They are also offering refunds, minus non-refundable deposits, so as a traveller, you would be better off not losing your deposit by accepting a full credit for a future cruise.
Carnival Cruise Corporation, which includes P&O Cruises, Cunard, Princess Cruises, Holland America Cruise Line, have also relaxed their policies, now allowing guests to make their final payment 30 days prior instead of 75 days prior for cruises up until August 2020. You can also cancel up to 48 hours in advance and receive a Future Cruise Credit in full for a future sailing.
Touring companies have put many tours on hold until May or June, but are offering flexible conditions around travel after that date. Touring companies such as Trafalgar, Insight Vacations, APT, Travelmarvel, Travelglo and Scenic also have guarantees where you can change your mind up to 30 days prior and keep the full value for a future tour with no penalty, or with a small per person change fee. This is particularly generous of tour companies as they are often absorbing 3rd parties fees such as hotels, local tour, cruise and rail. Check with your particular touring company to see your options and ask about any charges.
For new bookings, companies such as Inspiring Vacations are offering fully refundable deposits if it’s within 28 days of your booking. There are some great future travel deals for 2021 being released to the market, so flexible deposit options like these can certainly help you secure some great travel pricing now, with no risk, for your future travel dreams.
Will insurance cover me?
If you have already booked your travel prior to COVID-19 announcements, many policies have a blanket clause that excludes paying for losses that arise from epidemics and pandemics. Whether you’re covered will come down to both when you took out the travel insurance policy and if you travelled after a travel warning was issued.
Some policies will cover medical costs, (but not financial losses due to cancelations or travel delays) only if the policy was bought prior to the pandemic being claimed a “known event” (in early February 2020). Policies such as Covermore’s, “Cancel for any Reason”, will cover your costs (subject to a maximum of 75% of the trip or $10,000) if you now wish to cancel for fear of Coronavirus, whether or not your trip has been officially cancelled. This policy had to be purchased within 48 hours of you booking your holiday and also prior to 13th March 2020, when they ceased selling the policy. Also, many tour companies such as Travelmarvel and APT have a Peace of Mind Guarantee, or Trafagar, Insight Vacations and Uniworld's Gold Seal Protection, that may also refund you.
For any bookings made from now, most insurance companies will not cover you for financial or medical losses because of the impact of coronavirus. Make sure you know your travel company’s cancellation policy well and cancel within required time frames if you do not want to lose any payments made on your travel booking. No insurance policies will cover your cancellation costs because you are worried about travelling because of coronavirus.
Most tour, cruise and travel companies can now provide you with a letter to assist you in claiming insurance on any cancellation fees, lost deposits or medical expenses.
So, should I cancel in 2020?
If you are already booked to travel in 2020, the best way to ensure you don’t lose any money is to NOT cancel prior to any announcement of your tour company/ cruise line/airline saying that they have cancelled their service. If you can cancel before the travel provider, it will usually attribute the usual cancellation fees. If you wait until you see if your trip is cancelled, this will give you the greatest bargaining power in negotiating future credits in full , sometimes with bonus onboard credits or additional cruise credits. You’ll also be keeping all of the money you paid without cancellation fees in most cases.
Got cabin fever and desperately want to book to travel later in 2020? With stricter controls by many countries and declining new cases of COVID-19, there is always the possibility of international borders opening earlier than 2021. If you see a great travel deal, take advantage of the discounted travel and also the many flexible deposit and booking options, knowing that you can cancel closer to your trip without penalty and still get an incredible deal.
That’s our insider’s tip from Travel Therapy!
For the most recent travel updates, you can visit Smart Traveller 's recommendations for your destination.
For updated policies, see below: