Coping with COVID-19

Coping with COVID-19

The Travel Agents Association of New Zealand (TAANZ) is engaging with government to get its short, medium and long term views around the ‘sustainable contribution of tourism and travel to the economy.

‘TAANZ is working in the advocacy space, we want to know what the government’s vision is,’ says chief executive Andrew Olsen. ‘What can both sides of the house do to give some sort of confidence for the next four weeks and provide good information around this.’ He says the brands themselves are in various stages of readiness in terms of advising their agents around obligations in terms of people being sick, human resource issues around leave and other health and safety requirements. Olsen also agrees with those who say agents need to put real facts in front of clients who are wondering whether they should or should not travel – and he has evidence that this is happening. ‘In the end it is the customers’ choice but I have seen fact sheets and first hand dialogues in a Q and A format that help agents get down to the nitty gritty and give the known facts to their clients.’

Olsen says TAANZ wants to see a ‘we are all in this together approach’, including from suppliers around the handling of cancellations, refunds and credits. ‘It is in everyone’s interest to take a broad approach to how they want to manage cancellations and ultimately how they manage customers. We have to keep a wide view on keeping the distribution path open.’ Olsen feels that suppliers are stepping up on this to varying degrees. He says it is also important that insurers ensure their wording is clear. ‘If you are (covering certain situations), say you are, if you are not, say you are not. Obviously there will be exclusions and Ts & Cs, but be clear. Speak like a five year old so everyone can understand.’

Other industry personnel, meantime, are also accentuating the need to pass on accurate, credible information. ‘Present clients with information from world health bodies and credible government agencies,’ says Rahul Sharma, of Exotic Holidays. ‘Help them to not be influenced by social media and other unreliable sources.’ Innovative Travel’s Robyn Galloway suggests the travel industry could consider a coordinated public relations effort to put accurate, balanced information in front of the media and public around the coronavirus issue. Galloway says this is the greatest challenge to the travel industry since the Global Financial Crisis and, before that, 9/11. In her own company’s case, Innovative Travel has introduced a flexipolicy, and Galloway says her actions are based on past experience of handling unexpected negative events – both locally (such as earthquakes) and internationally (political chaos). ‘We have a strategic plan to manage our way through this sort of thing. The key thing is that we need to take a proactive stance – we need to control the things we can control.’ 


Coronavirus: Information that may help when talking to clients

By Stu Freeman

The travel industry is being urged to swot up on the actual facts around the coronavirus, Covid-19, and where possible present information to clients that (while not diminishing the seriousness of this or any other health issue) help them to make an informed decision about their next holiday. TRAVELinc Memo has sourced helpful links to articles – some scientific information around the disease itself, others pertaining to the panic sometimes seen and urging perspective.

Just over a week ago, I posted on LinkedIn and Facebook a piece that generated considerable comment, pointing out that according to Google, Wuhan has a population of 11.08 million. ‘The latest figures I have seen indicate that the whole of main land China has had 77,660 confirmed cases of Coronavirus. Unless my maths are bad that is the equivalent of about 0.8% of Wuhan alone – including everything from deaths to slight sniffles. When you take into account the 27,878 people reported to have recovered in Wuhan that leaves about half of one per cent of the population with it.’

A few, not many, commentators are starting to point out that recovery figures seem to be missed out of general reporting of this disease. The number of confirmed cases keep going up but clients may be surprised to know that when people who have recovered are taken into account the reported number of people in the whole world with the disease is less than 45,000. The same applies to the growing list of countries ‘the disease has spread to’. A large number of these places have had one to five cases, all as a result of people arriving there with the disease, all of which recovered and left the country and have not had a case for weeks since. Yet our clients may still see them on a list of affected countries and make a decision not to travel there.

Here are a few dot points and links to the original articles they come from: • Science Media Centre report: ‘The virus seems to be spread through the respiratory system, mainly through contact with respiratory droplets rather than through the air.’ Click here. • An example of how blatantly wrong information can stick with people and continue to do the rounds – BBC. Click here. • Psychology Today: How COVID-19 is infecting our minds, not our lungs. Click here. • The Spectator: The most dangerous thing about coronavirus is the hysteria. Click here. • New Zealand Herald: Why children aren’t getting sick. Click here.

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