COVID-19 REPORT: WTTC Postpones Global Summit And More

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) is postponing its 20th Global Summit until the fall of 2020.

Originally scheduled to take place in April in Cancun, Mexico, the postponement was announced by the WTTC and the government of the Quintana Roo.

Now, the WTTC says in a statement announcing the postponement, the 2020 event is set to take place in Cancun in the early fall, allowing the travel and tourism sector to recover from the current COVID-19 outbreak and its impact on the industry.

Gloria Guevara, WTTC president & CEO, said: “We stand in solidarity with governments, countries and organizations which are being affected by COVID-19 and look forward to hosting our Global Summit in the Autumn. This will provide a global platform to discuss the sector’s recovery and future plans.”

Carlos Joaquin, governor of Quintana Roo, said: “Cancun and the State of Quintana Roo are continuing to plan a full schedule of events, meetings and conventions against the global backdrop of COVID-19. We have no COVID-19 cases but stand ready to support those around the world.”

The WTTC’s annual Global Summit brings together top-level industry leaders for meetings with government representatives to plan action on some of the most significant issues across the international agenda.

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GBTA Tracks The Impact

COVID-19 (coronavirus) continues to impact the global business travel industry, with companies cancelling meetings and instituting blanket business travel cancellations, according to the latest research conducted by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA).

In research conducted with its membership between March 4-6, the GBTA found that:

  • Around the globe, more companies are cancelling or suspending business travel due to COVID-19 (coronavirus). Business travel to Asia has been impacted the hardest, with at least three of every four companies reporting they have cancelled or suspended “all” or “most” business trips to China (95%), Hong Kong (87%), Taiwan (79%) and other Asia-Pacific countries (e.g., Japan, South Korea and Malaysia; 77%).

Cancelled and/or suspended business travel to Asia has notably increased since GBTA’s previous poll, which was conducted on Feb. 24, 2020. Over the course of 10 days, cancelled and/or suspended business travel to Hong Kong increased by 19%, to Taiwan by 46%, and to the rest of the Asian Pacific countries by 71%.

  • Cancellations and suspensions of business travel to regions other than Asia have increased exponentially as well. Half (51%) of GBTA members report their company has cancelled or suspended “all” or “most” business travel to Europe – up from 8% 10 days ago. Almost one in five (18%) companies has cancelled or suspended “all” or “most” travel to North America – up from 2% 10 days earlier.

Nearly one-third (30%) of companies have suspended or cancelled “all” or “most” business travel to Latin America – up from 3% as of 10 days ago. In addition, almost half (47%) of companies have canceled or suspended business travel to the Middle East, compared to only 8% who reported doing so in GBTA’s previous poll.

  • Many companies have instituted blanket business travel cancellations or suspensions due to COVID-19 (coronavirus). More than four in ten (41%) GBTA member companies report their company has canceled or suspended all international travel, regardless of region. This is a significant increase from GBTA’s previous poll, when only seven percent of companies reported doing so.

The trend is similar when looking at company actions concerning domestic travel. Thirteen percent of GBTA member companies report their company has cancelled or suspended all domestic travel, compared to only two percent in the last poll.

  • GBTA member companies have cancelled on average 43% of business trips (all global regions) previously booked for March 2020 due to COVID-19 (coronavirus).
  • GBTA member companies report they are cancelling or postponing scheduled meetings, events, and conferences as opposed to moving the event to a new venue. Nearly three-fourths (73%) report their company has cancelled at least a “few” meetings, events, or conferences, with 30% cancelling “many” such events.

GBTA members are also postponing meetings, events, and conferences due to COVID-19 (coronavirus), with 74% reporting they have postponed at least a “few,” 26% having postponed “many,” and 27% having postponed “some.” Fewer GBTA member companies (29%) report they have moved meetings, events, and conferences.

  • GBTA member companies, particularly business travel suppliers such as airlines and hotels, are feeling a direct revenue impact due to COVID-19 (coronavirus). Nearly six in 10 (59%) supplier members report that COVID-19 (coronavirus) has made a “significant” impact on their company’s revenue, and another 27% report a “moderate” impact to date.
  • More GBTA member companies are altering their travel policies due to COVID-19 (coronavirus). Over half (55%) report their company has instituted new trip approval procedures, an increase from the 43% who previously reported doing so. In addition, 62% of companies have modified their travel safety and security policies in response to COVID-19 (coronavirus). (Only 51% had done so as of the time of the previous poll.)

Scott Solombrino, COO and executive director of the GBTA, said: “Coronavirus is significantly impacting the business travel industry’s bottom line. As the virus continues to spread across the world, business travel is slowing at an alarming rate. The impact to the business travel industry – and to the broader economy – cannot be underestimated.”

Solombrino continued: “Traveller safety remains the industry’s primary concern, and we are continuing to monitor conditions and respond appropriately. We encourage our member companies to heed the advice from all global health officials such as the CDC and the WHO when thinking about their travel plans.”

And he concluded: “I am confident in our efforts to ensure the health and safety of all travellers and know that we will emerge from this downturn with an even stronger industry.”

Jamaica Reports First Imported Case Of COVID-19

Jamaica’s Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton confirmed Jamaica’s first imported case of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Kingston.

The Minister said that: “The patient is a Jamaican female who had travelled from the United Kingdom, which has cases of COVID-19. She arrived in the island on March 4, presented to the public health system on March 9 and has been in isolation since then.”

He continued: “Based on the patient’s travel history and symptoms, health professionals suspected COVID-19. A clinical sample was collected and sent to the National Influenza Centre, where laboratory tests confirmed the diagnosis today at approximately 11 a.m. The patient and family members have been informed.”

And Minister Tufton added: “The patient’s infection was travel-related. However, steps are being taken to prevent the risk of community spread.”

Those measures include:

  • The dispatch of a health team to the home of the patient for assessment and initiation of public health measures.
  • The identification and contact tracing for all possible exposed persons.
  • Meeting of Ministry officials with members of staff at the hospital and the necessary interventions put in place.

He added that in addition, imposed travel restrictions remain in place. In fact, three countries have been added to the list of five (China, Italy, South Korea, Singapore, and Iran) that was previously made public. They are Spain, France and Germany.

Minister Tufton also advised that:

  • Public gatherings are discouraged.
  • Non-essential travel is discouraged.
  • We continue to patrol irregular border crossings.
  • Sensitization of key personnel at all air and sea ports is ongoing.
  • We have designated FOUR (4) quarantine facilities and others will be identified.
  • We are finalizing the retrofitting of isolation facilities in each of the island’s public hospitals.

And the Minister concluded: “I want to use this opportunity to appeal to the public to remain calm and to implement all the advisories relating to personal hygiene, social distancing, and overall infection prevention control. The Government of Jamaica will continue to keep the public informed as we manage this public health challenge.”

WestJet Well-Prepared: Sims

WestJet President & CEO Ed Sims has issued a statement on how the airline is taking preventative measures in response to COVID-19.

Sims assured the travelling public that guests’ safety remains their No. 1 priority and staff “train comprehensively for these scenarios as part of our overall emergency response and stood up a COVID-19 direct response team immediately as the situation began to unfold.”

From the onset of the coronavirus, WestJet has been in contact with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), Transport Canada and other agencies around the world to align with their guidance regarding air travel.

In addition to the standard aircraft cleaning that is part of its daily maintenance schedule, additional measures have been implemented to increase the sanitization of its fleet.

“We already disinfect and sanitize our aircraft using industry-approved products and have also introduced hospital-grade Clorox Wipes and Spray to our cleaning processes,” he stated. “These new products are used to clean the galleys, lavatories, tray tables, seat armrests and headrests, seatbelt buckles, the power supply unit panel, overhead bin door latches and lavatory door handles. In the air, our aircraft are equipped with state-of-the-art HEPA filters, which are similar to those used in hospitals. These filters achieve a viral and bacterial removal efficiency of greater than 99.99%. These aircraft also introduce fresh air into the cabin every two to three minutes.”

WestJet has also introduced a flexible change policy giving guests who booked between March 3 to March 31, the ability to change their flight without the applicable change fees. In addition, the normal change and cancel restrictions for guests who had previously booked a Basic fare for travel beginning on or before March 31 are temporarily removed. For more information, visit:

“PHAC has assessed the public health risk associated with coronavirus as low for Canada,” he added. “To date, there are no known cases where this virus has been transmitted from one person to another on an aircraft. We recognize that this is an evolving story and my commitment is to provide you with up-to-date information as it becomes available. We will continue to post to the WestJet blog which remains the best place to find the most current information.”

More on WestJet’s book with confidence policy:

All new flight bookings made between March 5-31 will be allowed a one-time change fee waiver.

The one-time change fee waiver is available for any itinerary change made more than 14 days from departure.

Silversea Protecting Agents’ Commissions

Following the Royal Caribbean Group’s introduction of the Cruise with Confidence program, Silversea is introducing a number of enhancements to that program.

Effective immediately, Silversea will now be protecting travel agent commission on all bookings cancelled under the Cruise with Confidence program set to depart between March 9 and July 31.

This Silversea enhancement protects all bookings refunded through a future cruise credit under the Cruise with Confidence program in which guests have made their final payment.

This enhancement is offered in addition to the Royal Caribbean Group’s Cruise with Confidence program, in which guests with cruises departing from March 9 to July 31, 2020 may cancel their voyages up to 48 hours prior to their sailing date and receive a Future Cruise Credit valid for two years after the date of issue.

Silversea will allow travel partners to retain any commissions already paid, and pay commissions on bookings cancelled between March 9 and July 31 after they were paid in full, provided the cancellation occurs outside of the 48-hour cancellation window outlined in the Cruise with Confidence program.

Further, bookings made through redemption of these Future Cruise Credits will also be eligible for full commission based on the cruise value of the new booking.

This new policy is designed to provide Silversea’s travel partners with added assurance during this uncertain time. The cruise industry is resilient, and travel agents and their clients can be confident of Silversea’s unwavering support during these difficult times.

Mark Conroy, Silversea’s managing director for the Americas, commented: “The current circumstances regarding the outbreak of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus), which are out of our control, inspired Silversea and the Royal Caribbean Group to introduce this program.”

Conroy continued: “We know our loyal travel partners are undoubtedly working particularly hard during these uncertain times, and it is important to all of us at Silversea that you are receiving your well-deserved compensation. We appreciate your partnership, and we could not succeed without your support.”

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AMResorts Rolls Out Programs To Help Agents

AMResorts has rolled out two new programs designed to help agents support their existing customers who have travel concerns with travel alternatives.

The options are:

  • For clients who call with travel concerns who are considering cancelling their AMResorts reservation, our resort team is available to assist in providing reassurance regarding the safety policies and procedures in place. Resort contact information can be found here.
  • Booking Assist Program: If the customer remains undecided, AMResorts is pleased to offer an enhanced vacation experience to encourage them to keep their plans. We have developed the following complimentary options as part of our Booking Assist Program. This option is for existing reservations only, only for customers who call in to cancel, and will be available from now until March 31, for all travel dates in 2020:
  • Complimentary room upgrade based upon availability at check in
  • Additional $200 in resort coupons for a total of $400
  • $50 spa credit

If selected, please email the resort Director of Sales who can be found at .

  • Move the Date, Keep the Rate:” If your client has declined the above-mentioned extras and still wishes to cancel, our goal is to assist you in retaining as much business as possible. Therefore, we have also instituted a new program entitled “Move the Date, Keep the Rate:”
  • Guests may change the date of their current booking for a future travel date between now and Dec. 22, 2020.
  • Additionally, guests have the option to change to another AMResorts® property within the same brand, in a different destination with no additional fee or cancellation penalty. Travel to also be completed by Dec. 22, 2020.

For social groups in penalty that wish to cancel or postpone their trip:

  • If the group wishes to change the date of their existing booking, they may do so at the same rate based on room availability with travel completed by Dec. 22.
  • Additionally, groups may also relocate to another AMResorts property within the same brand for the same rate, based on availability.
  • For Groups not in any penalty, they may relocate to any AMResorts property.

Rate Guidelines for both FIT and Social Groups:

  • If the rate of the new resort is lower, the client would be entitled to a refund. Alternatively, if the client wishes to change brands, they would be responsible for any price increases.
  • AMResorts is unable protect rates outside of the AMResorts portfolio and will not pay for airline change fees.

Peace Of Mind With Celestyal Cruises

Responding to the COVID-19 outbreak, Celestyal Cruises has launched a “Peace of Mind Policy” to include current bookings for travel between now and June 30.

Customers are able to alter their plans up to seven days prior to the sailing date without incurring cancellation fees. They will receive a 100% future cruise credit that can then be applied towards a 2020 or 2021 cruise.

This is addition to any new cruise bookings made between now and April 30, 2020 for travel during 2020-2021, which can also be changed up to seven days prior to the sailing date without incurring any penalty or cancellation fees.

Guests sailing on the March 14, 2020 seven-night Three Continents Cruise and March 16 four-night Iconic Aegean sailing may also take advantage of the “Peace of Mind Policy” despite being within seven days of departure.

To put travellers’ minds at further ease, Celestyal has announced that it will extend its “Big Cruise Sale” until April 30. “Big Cruise Sale” fares start from $1,259 per person on the all-inclusive Eclectic Aegean seven-night itinerary and can now be secured for the reduced deposit of just $50 per stateroom.

Leslie Peden, chief commercial officer for Celestyal, said: “At Celestyal Cruises, we understand that these uncertain times can be unsettling, but we are optimistic about the future and we want to allow our guests to be reassured and feel comfortable in carrying on with their existing vacation plans or making future travel plans, whilst also recognizing that some guests may need to change their plans too.”

Peden added: “We believe that our ‘Peace of Mind Policy’ along with extending the booking period for our ‘Big Cruise Sale,’ lower deposits and onboard spending credits and discounts will put our guests minds at ease and provide them with the flexibility they need in order to plan going forward.”

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