Top travel firms relax strict booking policies to tempt more customers

Top travel firms relax strict booking policies to tempt more customers on luxury breaks as bookings fall amid coronavirus outbreak

  • Royal Caribbean will allow cruise cancellations up to two days before departure
  • Kuoni decided to let guests change trip dates by seven days before leaving
  • Comes as at least six passengers died after catching virus on Diamond Princess

Top travel firms are relaxing their strict booking conditions on luxury breaks as reservations continue to nose-dive amid fears over the coronavirus outbreak.

Cruise holiday giant Royal Caribbean has decided to allow guests to cancel their stays up to two days before their ships are due to set sail and receive a full credit, which they can use to book another holiday by the end of next year.

Luxury holiday firm Kuoni has also tweaked its booking conditions, allowing customers for exclusive destinations including the Maldives, Bali and Sri Lanka to switch their trip dates up to seven days before departure.

It comes as at least six passengers died after contracting coronavirus on the Diamond Princess, and governments worldwide have moved to shut flight connections with countries most affected by the outbreak.

Cruise holiday giant Royal Caribbean has said it will allow guests to cancel their stays up to two days before their ships are due to set sail

Royal Caribbean Group’s CEO Richard Fain said that their previous policy added extra stress

Royal Caribbean Group’s policy change applies to any trips booked with Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara and Silversea that are due to set sail by July 31.

The group’s chief executive Richard Fain said: ‘Our previous policy set earlier deadlines for guests to cancel their cruises, and that added unnecessary stress.’

It is expected to put pressure on other cruise companies to also switch their booking policies.

Kuoni has also set up what it calls the Kuoni Flex initiative, to allow customers to switch holiday dates, which is available from today until March 16 for holidays as late as 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.

Luxury travel firm Kuoni has made changes to its policies for exclusive breaks

Kuoni’s former chief executive Hans Lerch pictured in a file photo from May 2001

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.

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

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

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