In the wake of a nationwide fears in China related to a new virus, cancellation fees for trips to the central Chinese city of Wuhan are being waivered by China’s biggest online travel agency, said reports.
The 2020 Lunar New Year celebration that was set to begin on Saturday was delayed by local authorities in the central China city of Wuhan because of fears that the virus that causes pneumonia is spreading fast across the city.
The fact that the travel agencies and companies of China have started to react to the new coronavirus is reflected in the decision that was taken by Trip.com, also known as Ctrip. The new coronavirus, is believed to have originated in Wuhan and at least six deaths have been reported because of the virus while hundreds have fallen ill.
And since the outbreak of this new virus has happened at the time of the Chinese Lunar New Year holidays, there are fears that this could transform into an epidemic. This is because millions of Chinese are expected to travel within the country as well as to other regions of Asia during the holidays and it has been confirmed that the virus can be transmitted through humans as well.
Free cancellation on all hotels, car rentals and tickets bought for tourist attractions in Wuhan until January 31 will be waived by it, Trip.com said. The company will pay back travelers out of its own pocket if the hotels refuse to refund any booking fee, the company said.
Trip.com’s free cancellation policy is also applicable for any traveler or tourist that have been affected by the virus or those who have been quarantined or those who have been sent back to their place of departure, irrespective of their location. This will also be applicable for the travel companions of such customers.
Coordination with airlines and other companies with regard to the cancellations requests will also be attempted by the company, Trip.com said. Suggestions that cancellation fees should be waived by China’s railways and airlines companies so that it is possible to “contain the spread of the disease” was made in the China Youth Daily, a state controlled and owned Chinese media house.
Cancellation policies similar to Trip.com were also announced by its rivals Fliggy and Qunar.com.
If flyers have been quarantined because they show signs of sickness, they will be allowed to change or cancel their flights to Wuhan, said Tianjin Airlines and Hainan Airlines, which are both owned by HNA Group. No penalties would be charged from such travelers till February 29.
On Tuesday, China confirmed that humans can be a conduit for the transmission of the disease. The pathogen was identified as a new strain of coronavirus by Chinese scientists earlier this month. It belong to the same virus family as the one that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Two decades ago, SARS appeared as a pandemic through Asia and spread as far as Canada – killing 774 people and infecting more than 8,000 people.
If the new coronavirus continued to spread, it could become a major risk for the region, market analysts and economists have said.
Since the SARS outbreak, there has been a boom in China’s international tourism, said Rajiv Biswas, IHS Markit’s chief economist for Asia Pacific. That has also increased the risk that this SARS-like virus could get transmitted globally in a much greater manner than the SARS virus did.
(Adapted from CNN.com)