Travel firms relax booking rules due to Covid-19

Travel firms are relaxing their booking conditions in a bid to reverse a downturn in demand for holidays due to Covid-19.

Luxury holiday firm Kuoni is allowing customers who book certain trips to switch their travel dates without charge up to seven days before departure.

The offer applies to destinations including Mauritius, the Maldives, Thailand, Bali, Sri Lanka, the Caribbean and Mexico.

The Kuoni Flex initiative is available from Friday until March 16 for holidays up to February 2021.

Kuoni said it has negotiated flexible booking terms with key hotel partners and airlines such as British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Singapore Airlines or SriLankan Airlines.

Chief executive Derek Jones said: “This is something completely new, offering much more flexibility than usual with terms and booking conditions which we know will inject a boost of confidence for anyone planning a holiday, honeymoon or special occasion trip.

“At the moment we’re seeing people who are really keen to plan and have a holiday in the diary to look forward to, but there is a lot of nervousness around coronavirus and how it might play out which means people are hesitant to make any firm plans.”

Kuoni has also beefed up its customer service team to help consumers who want to discuss their travel options.

Cruise lines under the Royal Caribbean Group have adopted a new policy of allowing guests to cancel as late as two days before departure.

Customers booked on cruises up to July 31 who choose not to travel will receive a full credit for their fare, which can be used towards any future sailing by the end of next year.

This applies to guests on Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara and Silversea.

Royal Caribbean Group chief executive Richard Fain said: “Our previous policy set earlier deadlines for guests to cancel their cruises, and that added unnecessary stress.”

Online travel firm Holiday Pirates conducted a poll of 4,000 of its users which suggested that more than a third (34%) are worried about catching the coronavirus while travelling.

It also indicated that 72% think that they will be able to travel as usual this summer, and 65% have not cancelled or rescheduled their booked trips.