As the coronavirus continues to disrupt travel, agents are walking a fine line between allaying client concerns while not diminishing the severity of the situation.

“Sometimes you simply have to accept that no matter what information you have, a client’s fears and concerns must take precedence. I answer questions as honestly as I can,” said Claire Schoeder of Travel Edge in Atlanta. “I am sharing my upcoming travel plans to show that I am not letting fear of the illness keep me at home. I realize that the fear will stop some clients from traveling and there is little I can say or do to overcome that fear.”

To date, the majority of clients’ coronavirus questions have had to do with flights, regardless of where they are headed. “I remind them of preventative measures by telling them what I do,” Schoeder said, adding that she advises travelers to use antibiotic wipes to clean armrests, tray tables and computer video screens. “Use hand sanitizers if you have visited the lavatories on the plane. Much illness is spread hand to mouth, so this is very important.”

Schoeder also recommends that clients who ask about using facemasks consult their physicians for advice. “There is a lot of information out there – some of which says the masks available to the public are not effective against the spread of the disease and other information that says they are effective,” she said. “A doctor or nurse is best to advise on that.”

All things considered, only a small percentage of her clients have expressed concern about the coronavirus. “I have quite a few clients traveling right now but most seem unconcerned about the virus,” she said. “I did have clients cancel a major trip to Thailand. They were very worried about it and after a bit of thought I realized it was not in the best interests of either my clients or myself to try to convince them that all would be well.”

Unquestionably, travel to Asia is top of mind with most travelers when it comes to coronavirus concerns. “No one is even considering Asia. I’ve had people delay decision making on Mediterranean and Caribbean cruises,” said Shari Marsh of Raleigh, N.C.-based Cruise Holidays Land and Sea. “I haven’t seen any hesitation concerning all-inclusives or custom FIT itineraries. In fact, I’ve been booking Ireland and Europe land [vacations] without hesitation.”

Meanwhile, James Ferguson of Travel Edge in La Jolla, Calif., said he “applauds the industry on talking the coronavirus situation seriously. One positive result of this is that clients are being more prudent about taking out travel insurance.”

Trish Gastineau of Simply Customized Travel in Fort Myers, Fla., who is an independent contractor with Travel Experts, noted that she has been fielding client questions regarding what travel insurance will – and will not – cover. “There is general concern from clients about how travel insurance would work in the event of vendor cancellations due to something like the coronavirus,” she said. “Many are shocked to learn that there isn’t any coverage for cancellations due to Center for Disease Control or World Health Organization alerts, epidemics or pandemics.”

Clients who are concerned about the coronavirus “should seriously consider Cancel for Any Reason coverage with the understanding that they would be refunded up to the insurance policy’s limits,” Gastineau said. “It’s best in these cases to connect the clients directly to the travel insurance company so that the travel advisor isn’t liable for any misinformation.”

For her part, Angela Turen of Naperville-Ill.-based Churchill & Turen said the agency is urging suppliers to move client bookings to future sailings. “The cruise lines have been changing itineraries, as this situation is extremely fluid,” she said. “I remember the SARS virus back in early 2000. That was more contained – although it took a good six months to get it controlled.”

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