In reaction to the Chinese News story about a tour group seeking refund for a canceled trip to Morocco, some readers say that the company should have provided a full refund to all group members, rather than deducting $200 from each of them. They also believe that TICO regulations are unfair to consumers and intend to protect the interest of tour operators. However, these readers should bear in mind that the coronavirus pandemic has hit the tourism industry the hardest, leaving many travel agencies struggling in much more dire financial hardship than expected.
新冠瘟疫让世界多国进入封城状态，使大部分预先制定的旅行计划全部泡汤。被迫取消旅行的消费者们认为旅行社应该将更改事先制定的有关取消旅行的退款政策而将其预付游款全部退还消费者。USA Today有撰文称: “旅行社应竭力满足客户要求并做到让客户满意，而不是将旅行社的利益放置首位。那些拒绝向客户提供全部退款的政策是所有退款政策中的垃圾。”
The pandemic has pushed many countries into a locked-down mode and renders all pre-booked travel plans ineffective. Consumers forced to cancel their holiday bookings believe the travel agencies should waive the refund policies and make a full reimbursement of their payments without additional charge. “Travel agencies should go all the way to compensate consumers and make them happy, rather than to put their profits above consumers’ needs. Those who refused to provide a full refund are the worst refund policies, “ says a consumer advocacy in an article in USA Today.
Inundated with requests to get a refund for canceled trips, the tourism industry across the globe has taken an unprecedented toll in history. The loss in the US tourism industry reached seven times more than during SARs outbreak to tens of billions, wiping out hundreds of thousands of jobs that include many small businesses such as travel agencies. The pandemic has also dealt a significant blow to the tourism industry in Canada, which sets to lose millions of tourism dollars by the summer and airlines to lay off workers in multiple thousands.
Apparently, requesting travel agencies to provide a full refund for all canceled tours would put additional strain on the troubled industry, fueling the financial crisis the industry is facing. In the U.K., the existing regulations, which require tour operators to offer a full refund for a canceled tour, will lead a flood of companies to suffer the fate of demise, according to advocacy groups for the industry.
The Association of British Travel Agency (Abta) is now seeking an emergency government consumer hardship fund to fulfill refund payment to consumers. The organization stresses that the current regulations are not suitable to cope with a disaster affecting every country and every destination worldwide, and that “to continue with the regulation would lead to innumerable company collapses and the loss of thousands of jobs.”
Luckily, Ontario does not have the U.K. adopted regulations in place. TICO’s guidelines for coronavirus affected travel plans made it clear that travel operators are not obligated to allow consumers to cancel the tours at no additional cost. The steep penalties specified in the refund policies in the invoices will apply if consumers decide to cancel the trip. As such, Ontario travel agencies are under no legal obligations to refund consumers, and reimbursing the costs are the travel agency’s goodwill gestures out of empathy and care, and maybe at their own expense.
The pandemic brings out the most extraordinary and challenging times that the tourism industry has never experienced. Everyone in the industry, from consumers to travel providers, should stand in it together and take the hits like one. What the Morocco tour groups have received were not just refund, but the acts of giving and kindness from their travel provider. But the kindness and generosity deserve appreciation and gratitude, and consumers should feel grateful rather than entitled.
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