Travel industry bracing for customer concerns as Omicron variant emerges

Canada’s travel industry is bracing for a rise in customer concerns after the identification of a new COVID-19 variant.

Travel agents and industry associations say customers are starting to ask about cancellation policies after the Omicron variant was detected in southern Africa on Friday and confirmed in Canada, with two cases found in Ottawa on Sunday.

Kristin Hoogendoorn of KMH Travels in Mississauga, Ont. says her clients aren’t scrambling to cancel vacations yet, but a few have asked about money-back policies.

With little known about the new variant and how vaccines will fare against it, Hoogendoorn worries people will panic and cancel their travel plans, even if public health advice around vacations doesn’t change.

That could be devastating for the travel and hospitality industry, which has experienced a massive drop in customers since COVID-19 emerged.

Companies in the sector started to rebound earlier this year, when cases of the virus decreased, but if the new variant winds up to be more virulent or deadly, Hoogendoorn believes that recovery will be further delayed.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 29, 2021.

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