How will COVID-19 affect my travel plans?
As of week ending Friday 20 March 2020, many countries, including Australia and the USA have imposed a Level 4 Travel Advisory: Do not travel overseas. Return home as soon as possible.
If your travel is within a month, your Diveplanit consultant will already have contacted you to explain how travel restrictions imposed so far are likely to impact your trip. As any new restrictions are put in place, we will proactively contact anyone affected.
For those of you with travel a few months out, who are concerned, we can only say that everyone’s situation and travel plans are unique – so the possible disruption caused by Coronavirus will differ for everyone. Contact your personal Diveplanit travel consultant to discuss your specific case.
The situation is changing so rapidly it is impossible to predict even the best or worst-case scenarios one week from now, let alone at the time of your trip in a few months time. The advice given will need to be constantly reconsidered in light of new developments.
Below we have assembled some useful information that you should read before having that conversation.
- Are resorts open and liveaboards operating?
- Is it safe to travel?
- Existing Bookings – Cancellation – will I lose money?
- New Bookings – Book Now With Confidence – Travel Later Safely.
- Airline Bookings – how easily can I change them?
- Insurance – am I covered?
- Safety at your Dive Destination
- How long will it last – and how bad is it?
- Eventually … will things get back to normal?
Resorts open and liveaboards operating?
Are dive resorts open and liveaboards operating normally?
Many dive resorts and liveaboards have effectively become inaccessible due to travel restrictions, and others that simply have no guests are taking the opportunity to close the resort, or take the boat out of service, and bring forward any planned maintenance or refurbishments. Everyone wants to be as ready as possible to restart operations when travel once again becomes possible. There will be a lot of pent up demand.
Is it safe to travel?
The advice is now: Do not travel.
The advice from the Australian Government is now its highest level – Level 4: ‘Do not travel overseas‘. If you still travel against this advice, you may become stranded in a country where you are not able to access their public health system.
The most up-to-date, country-by-country information on restrictions is posted here, on the International Air Transport Association (IATA) news site.
Here is a list of countries where COVID-19 has spread, and their case count.
Existing Bookings – Cancellation – Will I lose money?
If I have an existing booking – will I lose money if I cancel?
If you have a trip booked in a few months time, in a period that currently falls outside the government Travel Ban, and there is nothing preventing you from going on that dive trip at that time, then you should continue to plan to go on your dive trip.
If you have a trip in the near future and you cannot travel because of a newly imposed restriction, such as Level 4 Travel Ban, or transiting through a country that will trigger a denial of entry at your destination, we will work with you personally to discuss your options. It is usually possible and preferable to negotiate a full credit if you postpone your trip rather than cancel it. Diveplanit, like most of our resorts and liveaboards, is waiving all change fees incurred as a result of Coronavirus, for postponements.
If you have booked a trip that you are fully able to take, but choose not to travel, then the terms of the cancellation policy of the resort or liveaboard become applicable. In most cases, you will find these on the bottom of your invoice. If not stated then our General Terms apply.
Note that these cancellation charges are not there to penalise you. They are to cover, in small part, the loss of revenue that a cancellation causes. Most of our resorts and many of our liveaboards are family-run businesses, with many staff from cleaners and cooks, to boatmen and dive guides, all with their own families to feed.
Book Now With Confidence – Travel Later Safely
Though you may not be in the mood to plan your next trip right now, many dive resorts and liveaboards are relaxing their booking and cancellation terms as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, hoping to reassure divers that it is safe to book for the future. Others have revised their terms to allow for postponements for any new bookings. As an example, Siladen Resort is now offering No deposit payment to hold a booking, with full payment due just 15 days before check-in.
Many resorts and liveaboards are now offering big discounts
Master Liveaboards, Blue O Two and Siren Fleet have announced that any new booking between the 9th March to 30th April can be cancelled with a full refund. From the 9th March, any new bookings will be refunded if you are unable to travel due to COVID-19, and for existing bookings, our standard terms and conditions still apply, with some exceptions caused by the outbreak of the COVID-19, where a postponement may be available. Contact us to find out if these revised terms apply to your booking. We are happy to discuss each and every situation with you personally.
I’ve already booked flights – what are my options?
If you choose to cancel, the original cancellation charges still apply. These charges are different for every airline and every class of seat.
If the airline cancels your flight, you are entitled to an alternate flight. Their obligation is only to get you from A to B.
For COVID-19, each airline taking their own approach.
However, most are now offering a one-time reschedule and waiving the change fees. Even if you don’t yet know the re-schedule date, you can hold the airfare in credit, until a certain time, then rebook to travel within a certain time. The time frame for rebooking differs with each airline – but most are offering enough flexibility to defer to sometime within the next 12 months.
In a pandemic, will insurance cover me?
Your dive insurance is unlikely to be affected.
Travel insurance is a different matter. Travel insurance is triggered by an unforeseen event which prevents you from travelling. Choosing not to travel is not such an event. And unfortunately, most insurance policies already have clauses which specifically exclude pandemics and similar events. Here is a useful guide to which insurance policies will cover you for travel cancellations incurred due to Covid-19 restrictions and other epidemics. Products, or policy add-ons which enabled a customer to Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR), have now largely been withdrawn from sale.
Safety during diving
Will Coronavirus change how we go diving?
Whether you are diving overseas, or locally with you club or buddy, the following recommendations from DAN and PADI should help prevent transmission and infection by divers. Remember this is a virus – so antibacterial products are of little use. Hard surfaces: use disinfectant. Soft surfaces: like your skin – use soap.
- Use mask defog solution or soap, not saliva in your mask
- Thoroughly disinfect masks (especially the nose pockets), snorkels, regulators and BCD oral inflators before and after use.
- Make sure the interiors of regulators and snorkels are properly cleaned, not just the mouthpiece.
- Obviously rinse everything well after disinfecting.
- Pay particular attention to rental gear. You may wish to ask for it to be disinfected prior to use, even if the staff say it was properly washed after its last outing.
- Avoid communal rinse tanks that are not otherwise cleaned and disinfected on a regular basis.
- Don’t share surface interval snacks.
- Continue to practice social distancing as far as possible.
How long will it last – and how bad is it?
This is not the first Coronavirus, what makes COVID-19 different?
It is certain to get worse before it gets better. There are still many unknowns, particularly regarding its transmissibility. COVID-19 is a viral pneumonia, just like the flu, it is a respiratory illness. It causes fever and a dry cough, but not so much the runny nose and sneezing associated with the flu. Hence there is a big focus on hand washing as a preventative measure as well as a face mask.
Its mortality rate is between 1.5 and 3.4% depending on age, pre-existing conditions and access to quality healthcare, which is 10x as bad as the flu, but 5x less than SARS and 30x less than MERS.
The main challenge is its asymptomatic transmission – i.e., you can catch it, before the person you catch it from displays any symptoms at all. This is what makes predicting its growth and impact near impossible.
However, it is a fact that human to human transmission is impossible when both humans are submerged in saltwater – particularly at a depth of 20m and using self-contained underwater breathing apparatus.
Back to normal
Will things ever get back to the old normal?
This will depend on when Governments relax freedom of travel. The leading indicator will be flight timetables. Some airlines continue to fly on reduced timetables as they also carry essential freight, others have grounded entire fleets. Taking Qantas as an example, there are no flights on 31 May 2020, but there is no compensation for disruption past mid-September. Reading between the lines, there’s an expectation that some flights may commence early June building in capacity from zero to full capacity by end of September.
At Diveplanit, we are planning for an eventual return to normality, as to plan otherwise invites a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Eventually, this will be just another saga in history like SARS and MERS. Some predict even after a vaccine is found, it will still hang around as an annual event much like the flu.
We just don’t know when. Until then …