As the Coronavirus crisis in Peru and worldwide continues, more and more people are asking themselves if they should book their trip to Peru or any other destinations they had planned. As we are dealing with an unprecedented crisis that the modern world has never seen before, at this time it is impossible to foresee what will happen in the coming weeks and days. Nevertheless if we look at the current situation in China where the number of people infected is dropping rapidly and the number of people recovered from the Coronavirus has surpassed the number of infected, it is safe to assume that there will be a point in the not too far future that we can all resume our lives.
The first scientific estimated timetables show that the crisis would start slowing down around the end of the summer, in August/September. Till this time, travel restrictions will remain legion and leisure travel will be heavily affected. From September onwards things will hopefully return to the “new” normal and all planned trips and holidays can go ahead. For those traveling before this time you may want to start considering a Plan B. At this point it is safe to say that those traveling in June, July and August do not necessarily have to jump to action now and can still analyze the situation as time passes. For those traveling in March, April and perhaps May, you may want to get in touch with your agency or travel consultant to see what the consequences are.
For those traveling to Peru, there will be quite some flexibility from agencies and operators as this is after all a so called “act of god” and therefore no-one has a fault in this. Most government and other agencies have informed that the dates for the tickets and the name of the passengers can be changed free of charge and this for a period of 12 months from the original travel date. Devolutions can also be provided in some cases but here administrative fees of about 10% will apply. Hotels have also shown a lot of flexibility in changing the dates for the trip free of charge, even for last minute changes but refunds are also subject to administrative fees in some cases. Agencies will receive their refunds in credit which in these precerious times can make that an agency will not be able to provide the full refund for the cost of the hotel. Some hotels do not provide a refund for cancellations within 15 days of the travel date. Local operators that provide guides, vehicles and drivers can show flexibility till about 7 days before departure. Fees can apply and will differ from operator to operator. Finally, any domestic flights in Peru are still very much in limbo as the airlines have promised flexibility but at this time cancelling the ticket is subject to a charge of up to 70% of the ticket price for some airlines and a lengthy reimbursement process. Changing flight tickets is a better option but the tickets may also be subject to price variations where the difference in price between the two dates will have to be paid for.
It seems that these policies will change in favor of the consumer in the coming weeks but in general it can be said that it is best to postpone your trip to Machu Picchu for a new date then having to cancel. Your agency or consultant should be able to provide you time till about 15 days before the original travel date to set a new date. Setting the new date after the original date can result in issues with the changing in tickets. For cancellations the golden rule is; the closer to the travel date you would cancel, the smaller the chances on a refund become. Once within 20 days of your travel date, odds are that the agency already paid all operators and hotels in full and this means that the agency is depending on the hotels and operators in order to provide any refund.
Lastly, keep in mind that the travel industry is under a lot of pressure at this time and that good agencies will do everything in their power to provide all the people that have to cancel with a correct refund and transparency but some patience will have to be exercised. These are new times and for most agencies unprecedented conditions.