As Coronavirus continues to spread quickly around the globe, the tourism and travel sector is suffering major losses. However, travel and tourism and are major contributors to the spread of the virus around the world. Currently, governments around the world are imposing grand measures to limit movement and public gatherings temporarily. The general consensus is that theses measures will save tens of thousands of lives in the short term. Palestinian bookings platform, Yamsafer, is bearing the burden of canceled reservations and is raising awareness about the dangers of travel.
The company said in a statement on its website: “It is us, companies that act at the last point of contact with customers, that must warn people against the risk of traveling at this time. Further-restricting our revenues during this period of time is a small price to pay against the cost of pandemic-spread. Our belief is that it is not safe to travel at this time. Any other entity attempting to relax your concerns does not have your own best interest in mind.”
The startup is taking full financial responsibility on behalf of clients who wish to cancel pre-booked travel plans scheduled to take place before April 30. It will extend this policy beyond April 30 if the subsequent period is considered unsafe for travel as well. Additionally, Yamsafer will post travel warnings on their main website pages and inside the Yamsafer app, about travel risks. It is urging clients to cancel all travel reservations except in the case of emergencies.
The Palestinian startup is bearing full cancellation penalties on behalf of travelers if hotels or airlines refuse to waive cancellation penalties. Zaher remarks that the travel industry has suffered major losses. Although, they are partially to blame for the spread of the virus. He tells WAYA, “Unfortunately, most players are still trying to salvage some revenue with cancellation penalties and booking discount incentives. Our view is that customer-facing companies should be doing the exact opposite: issue travel warnings and take a hit on cancellation penalties”. He stresses companies making money off cancellations now might lose clients in the future. “Once the pandemic is behind us, I believe that services refusing to issue refunds will see their customers shop elsewhere,” he says.
Cancellations on the Rise
Globally there is an increase in customer service demand. More and more people with existing travel plans are trying to cancel or reschedule trips. In addition to a major drop in bookings. Coronavirus is taking a toll on travel companies everywhere.
Fares Zaher, co-founder and CEO of Yamsafer, said in a statement to WAYA: “Since March 1st, the number of order cancellations has exceeded the number of new orders being made on our platform by 130%.” He added that Yamsafer’s cancellation rates were higher than the industry average “as a result of our COVID cancellation protection policy, which was immediately applied to all reservation”.
Zaher expects to see a wave of layoffs in the coming months. The long-term effects of the virus on the travel and tourism sector. Speaking about the impacts on Yamsafer he says they have shut down marketing activities.
The World Travel and Tourism Council warns that the COVID-19 pandemic could cut 50 million jobs worldwide in the travel and tourism industry.
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