《TAIPEI TIMES》 Japan tour cancelations surge
People walk in the departure hall at Kansai International Airport in Osaka, Japan, on Monday last week. Photo: Tsai Tsung-hsien, Taipei Times
LEVEL WATCHING: The Travel Agents’ Association said that deciding whether to cancel tours was difficult, as tickets are non-refundable, despite a travel advisory
By Shelley Shan / Staff reporter
Thirty to 40 percent of group tours have said they want to cancel tours to Japan since the government on Friday issued a “level 1” travel advisory for the nation, travel agents said.
The Central Epidemic Command Center （CECC） issued the “watch” travel notice for Japan, saying that people planning to travel there should take precautions against COVID-19 infection.
The government’s three-tier travel advisory system has level 1, urging people to take normal precautions and respect disease-prevention measures at their destination; level 2 — “alert” — urging people to be vigilant; and level 3 — “warning” — which cautions against nonessential travel.
Travel Agents’ Association chairman Hsiao Po-jen （蕭博仁） said that travel companies have been receiving telephone calls from people inquiring about the status of tours to Japan, and 30 to 40 percent of them asked if they could cancel their trips.
“We can only monitor the government’s announcements on the status of the disease and accept requests to cancel tours,” Hsiao said. “If the government does not want people to travel to Japan, it might as well raise the level to 3 so that we can offer full refunds.”
“The last thing we want is for the government issue a level 1 warning for Japan, then change it to level 2 two days later and to level 3 a few days afterward,” he said.
Travel agents and customers are facing difficult decisions over whether to cancel tours, as flights to areas that have reported COVID-19 infections continue to operate and normal flight tickets are non-refundable, Hsiao said.
People have also asked to cancel tours to Singapore, although at a far lower rate than for those to Japan.
Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung （林佳龍） on Saturday said that Japan has been transparent about confirmed cases of COVID-19 and the government would respond to information from it accordingly.
“Although there are cases of human-to-human transmission in Japan, the source of infection remains unclear and the infected area is relatively small,” Lin said. “We follow instructions from the CECC.”
The Consumer Protection Committee said that from Jan. 23 to Saturday, it had received 490 complaints about tour cancelations, with about 18 percent of them being tours to Japan.
If people want to cancel tours to places under a level 1 alert, terms of the Fixed Contracts for Overseas Tours state that they are to pay the organizing company 5 to 100 percent of tour fees after deducting nonrefundable charges, depending on the number of days before the scheduled departure, the committee said.
However, if they cancel tours to level 2 areas, they shall pay no more than 5 percent of the total travel expenses, it said.
For tours to level 3 areas, either party may cancel without being subject to liability for compensation, as the contract cannot be completely fulfilled due to force majeure, or causes not attributable to either party, the committee said.