Rural tourism or an apartment by the beach, any formula is valid for the atypical summer we are facing. Just a few days before many Spaniards start their holidays, it is still unclear how the season will go. The main fear is whether a stable framework can be guaranteed, leaving behind the high numbers of people infected and dying in recent months.
Faced with such a volatile scenario, it is not surprising that those who want to travel are wary when booking accommodation. What happens if accommodation has already been paid for and, when the time comes, there’s another lockdown? And if a tourist has a fever just before starting his holiday, would he be entitled to a refund? These are just two of the many issues that are of greatest concern to travellers, as they don’t want to lose the money they have invested and are afraid that the tourism sector cannot compensate them because of the severe crisis that it is going through.
Free cancellation, a key service
For this reason, free cancellation has become a key service for hoteliers and tourist accommodation to attract these doubtful travellers, who are seeking additional guarantees. The following example illustrates this clearly: if you offer customers a 2% discount or free cancellation insurance, what are they more likely to choose? Without any doubt, this pandemic has made potential travellers even more appreciative of medical safety and free cancellation when deciding on their purchase.
Bookings without a free or flexible cancellation service are being excluded as a real purchase option for these consumers. Previously, this only applied to professional travellers or those on organised trips, whereas currently it affects all users.
The players in the tourism market are thus including free cancellation insurance in bookings, highlighting this service in the products they offer. Similarly, value-added packs, such as free cancellation plus medical assistance in the destination with COVID-19 cover, and cancellation during the customer’s stay, are offered optionally, and we are already seeing them offered free of charge by some hotel chains.
Travel assistance and Civil Liability insurance, protection for tourists and accommodation
The insurance sector has also adapted to the current situation in order to respond to consumer needs. While it is true that many travel assistance policies have not covered COVID-19 since it was declared a pandemic, we are currently finding insurance companies that have modified their services and guarantee protection to those infected with coronavirus as another serious illness that needs to be covered.
However, it should be noted that this protection, which is viable thanks to better figures for infection and mortality from the pandemic, will be difficult to sustain if there is another serious increase in the number of people infected. In the event of a sudden upturn, the insurance market will contract again. If this should happen, the authorities will have to analyse how to treat sick tourists in each destination country, since in many cases the expenses involved would be high for an average traveller.
We see the other side of the coin in hotels and tourist accommodation which can be the subject of claims if the guest is infected in their facilities. For this reason, it is important to have good Civil Liability insurance that provides this type of cover. The insurer initially provides cover for legal defence, although if it is determined that there is a causal link attributable to the hotel’s owner and/or operator, they could be liable for personal injury and the consequences arising from it.
Some companies are already analysing their portfolios and establishing specific exclusions for COVID-19 and/or pandemics. It is therefore important to have an insurance broker that offers professional advice, so that you can avoid surprises in the small print.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has undoubtedly affected all sectors, the tourism industry being one of the hardest hit in our country. Travellers need to be offered incentives in the form of additional services such as free cancellation or travel assistance, which provide much-needed confidence in difficult times like the present.