Coronavirus and The Holidaymaker

Are you confused by the press commentary about Coronavirus?

This blog post is tagged with:

Coronavirus Package Travel Regulations Consumer Rights

Do you understand your Rights?

Do you understand how you can potentially receive a refund?

Hello and welcome to my CreatingRipples PodFilm™

For the last few weeks I have not offered any comment on the Coronavirus issue, because the problem is complex and in some respects, trying to guess what comes next is like trying to catch fog! I have however decided to make this short film for several reasons:

  1. Firstly, because of the growing Coronavirus crisis, evidenced by increasing numbers being affected, the closure of towns and hotels and quarantine and the loss of confidence on the world’s stock markets - this is developing into a major event;
  2. Secondly, because of the commentary already out there, is providing the wrong focus on what people should know or be doing if they are either on a holiday or about to go, and
  3. I think that there has been a slow recognition from Authorities and Industry as to the reality on the ground

To begin with, the World Health Organisation (WHO) are clearly concerned because this version of the  virus is one of several serious Coronavirus strains; others being MERS or SARS which we have heard of previously in news bulletins.

It’s also important to acknowledge that each country, guided by their health authorities and the WHO, will be invoking emergency legislation to deal with the crisis. So in the UK, we may see powers and obligations arising under the Civil Contingencies Act to create quarantine zones or restrictions on travel. We can see this type of action in Italy, Tenerife and further afield in China which will be empowered by their laws.

All of this activity is not just going to have an effect on us, but also the companies and those who work for them who get us from A to B and those who accommodate us.

So what are the Rights for Consumers who may be affected by the Coronavirus threat?

Well, if you are on holiday, the Package Travel Regulations state you should receive information and assistance from your Travel Companies; this is in addition to UK Foreign Office Assistance and any assistance provided by the country you are visiting. You should remember, whatever your personal pressures, the Coronavirus trumps all and you should follow all health and government instructions and advices.

If you are about to go on holiday there are several issues to remember. Let’s take the Canaries as an example. The current problem is on Tenerife, so you would not be able to make at this moment in time, an argument to cancel your holiday to Lanzarote, using your rights, as the two islands are separate. Consider however someone hoping to go to Venice. The situation there is quite difficult and is likely to persist for several weeks more.

For those about to go on holiday, there is some help in the Package Travel Regulations, specifically at Regulation 12.  If you are going to a destination clearly affected by Coronavirus (remember my Lanzarote comparison), then subject to the evidence you supply to prove the point, you can by law cancel your holiday without penalty and receive your money back.

The reason you can do this is because as the law states, if there are ‘unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances’ that will significantly affect the performance of the package, this allows you to cancel. In acknowledging this Section, it is important to note what Preamble 31 in the Directive has to say about ‘unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances’; it states:

“This may cover for example warfare, other serious security problems such as terrorism, significant risks to human health such as the outbreak of a serious disease at the travel destination, or natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes or weather conditions which make it impossible to travel safely to the destination as agreed in the package travel contract”

So as you can see, ‘serious outbreak of a serious disease at the travel destination’ qualifies as your justification to use Regulation 12

“Package Travel Contract” is also an important phrase because this covers the traditional Package Holiday Contract and those types of DIY holidays that are classed as ‘Assisted Travel Arrangements’ within the Regulations; both types of holiday can it seems benefit from Regulation 12

I would strongly recommend that before you make such a claim, research what is happening at a destination, read english-language newspapers, visit english-language government websites and extract comments from people already on holiday in different destinations. Once you have collated that evidence, then you can move to cancel using Regulation 12. If they reject your request, then you need to seek urgent legal assistance to help you with getting your money back! Do not take action unless you do!

Now if you have bought a pure DIY holiday, then you do not have the protections of this Regulation. It is quite normal to have up to 6 contracts in a DIY holiday and you will have to negotiate with each travel provider if you are seeking to cancel or postpone your holiday - if you get stuck, then seek the assistance of your credit card issuer if you paid by card or alternatively you should consider seeking Legal Advices.

There is much commentary on Travel Insurance and in some respects I understand why Travel Insurers may be turning people away; they know that the Package Travel Regulations exist and that most holidaymakers can call on those rights. However, it is not an excuse to hide behind the shirt tails of the Foreign Office and Insurers should hear what you have to say. If you are trying to claim on Travel Insurance & they turn you away, read your contract and follow complaints procedure. If it remains unresolved, then escalate it up to Ombudsman! 

I think that we are at the beginning of this growing crisis & it will require Consumers to adopt cool heads, follow the authorities instructions & get to know your rights! For Industry & the government, there is a real need to use common sense and highlight the possibilities behind risk and rights - you never know, the Consumer may even appreciate it and will return to book with you again - sounds like a good opportunity and good business sense to me!

I hope that this brief commentary has been helpful.

(This Text/Script has been produced for the Creating Ripple PodFilm™ - Coronavirus and The Holidaymaker. To watch Frank's short film , you can view it here)