Zika travel policies 'likely to confuse'

Zika travel policies 'likely to confuse'

The chief executive of USAirtours has warned that holidaymakers could be confused about their rights to postpone or cancel trips due to the Zika virus, as the disease continues to spread.

With the number of cases in Miami reaching 14 by Tuesday, Guy Novik said it was a case of “when, not if” the Zika virus hits Orlando and southern Europe.

His caution follows fresh advice from Public Health England to pregnant women, or women trying to conceive, to consider postponing non-essential trips to Florida.

The risk is deemed “moderate” in Florida compared with “high” in Brazil, where the Olympic Games start tomorrow.

Novik said there was potentially “room for confusion” if airlines’ or cruise lines’ terms and conditions about booking amendments differ from a tour operator’s when a consumer books a package.

He said: “The operator’s terms and conditions are relevant if it’s a package. The airline we use might have its own policy for direct bookings and customers automatically assume this policy applies, but it’s not the case.”

He added: “The situation might become more relevant when [Zika] makes its way to Orlando.”

Operators including Thomas Cook have reported ‘minimal’ calls from concerned clients.

In line with advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to follow Public Health England’s recommendations, many operators are allowing pregnant women to postpone or change a booking if they have a doctor’s note.

Funway Holidays managing director Stephen Rhodes said his company would allow couples planning a baby to defer a holiday, although he admitted there was an element of trust involved.

“That is a little bit more difficult to manage because it’s not clear cut,” he said. “But that is the nature of tour operating. We are used to dealing with all sorts of situations.”

Visit Florida president and chief executive, Will Seccombe, stressed that the outbreak in Florida was confined currently to a one-square-mile area.

He said: “The health and safety of our visitors is the highest priority for Visit Florida and the entire Florida tourism industry. We know there is a heightened awareness and concern among travellers from the UK. However, is important to note that this situation is currently confined to a one-square-mile area in the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami.

“We have complete confidence in the response efforts of state and local authorities and continue to work with our industry partners to ensure visitors have the information they need to make the most informed travel planning decisions possible.”

Last year, Florida welcomed 1.8 million visitors from the UK and Ireland. Visit Florida reported 29.8 million visitors between January and April this year.


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