Jodie Burnard, general manager marketing NZ with Flight Centre Travel Group, says the company recently held TRAVEL Expos in Wellington and Christchurch and demand has still been high. ‘Outside of China people are still keen to travel. Destinations such as Europe, the USA, Pacific Islands and Australia remain very popular,’ says Burnard. ‘Flight Centre has seen a slight decrease in sales to Asia but this is mainly attributed to China itself, we have seen destinations such as Tokyo still high on the list of places Kiwis want to travel to.’
Steve Lee, director of NZ Travel Brokers, says brokers are focused on customer service and some are putting in significant hours reorganising or rebooking existing plans. ‘We’ve heard some glowing feedback from clients who are grateful for the efforts and hours their broker is putting in to get their plans back on track. ‘Certainly, a lot of people have put plans on hold and are in ‘wait and see’ mode, while others are carrying on but shifting destination – instead of Asia they are looking at UK / Europe, Canada, USA etc.’
Jay Soysa, product and reservations manager with Fathom Asia says that as far as that company’s destinations are concerned (it does not operate into China), it has experienced a small decrease in the number of bookings over the last three weeks or so. ‘On existing bookings, a few clients have called wanting to know if it was safe to travel etc and no one has cancelled. Our local agents are constantly updating us with the latest information provided to them by the appropriate local authorities. It goes without saying that every country is taking the outbreak very seriously and are implementing measures to ensure the safety of clients whilst they are in the country. This is always reassuring.’
He says that at sister company AIM Holidays, clients are booked to go to the inaugural Vietnam Formula One Grand Prix happening at the beginning of April. ‘We have had no cancellations at all and we are not experiencing a decline in interest or bookings for the next Formula One Grand Prix in Asia which is in Singapore in September.’
Coronavirus balance – ‘keep info real’
A number of organisations and people in the travel and tourism sectors around the world are starting to get involved in the ‘messaging’ around Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19). While acknowledging the virus is serious they are emphasising the need to focus on facts rather than Facebook. Tourism spokespeople in the Philippines, for example, have communicated that there have been no further cases of the virus in the Philippines since the original three cases. ‘All of these involved tourists from China, with one of those resulting in a fatality, reported some time ago.’ Thailand released figures recently showing that of 34 infections in that country, 15 were recovered, 19 were in hospital and there were no deaths. At a local level, NZ Travel Brokers director Steve Lee says that misinformation ‘certainly spreads much faster (and further) than any virus. ‘So we’re focusing on facts, not whatever is doing the rounds on social media. ‘We are seeing a lot of questions from clients – and travellers in general – so we’re directing them to the official information sources like the Ministry of Health coronavirus page and the SafeTravel website. The IATA travel centre has a good resource about changes to entry requirements due to coronavirus too.’ www.iatatravelcentre.com/international-travel-documentnews/1580226297.htm Valentina Mould-Morelli, creative director and marketing with Active Asia, says that with all the conspiracy theories and unfound claims in the media, the company has stayed sceptical of fake news and is staying focused on true facts. ‘Our clients safety and wellbeing is our number one concern. As from today, Vietnam has confirmed 16 cases, seven have fully recovered and the other nine are in a safe stable condition. There are no new cases and the situation nationwide is under control. Vietnam and Indochina remain safe travel destinations, all thanks to effective national responses to COVID-19. Active Asia is still seeing a good amount of enquiries and bookings for Sri Lanka and Myanmar which are both virus free and two of our top three destinations.’ Meantime the Travel Agents Association of New Zealand (TAANZ) has distributed to its members reliable information on coronavirus infections, recoveries and mortality rates from all reported countries. The updates are live. ‘It may be a useful in your discussions with customers and within your business using real data on the spread and threat of the disease,’ says TAANZ. CLICK HERE for details.