A pandemic is one of those things that is certain to shake things up on a global scale. While we are worrying about the health and safety to ourselves and others, or whether in the wake of #panicbuying we'll be able to find a pack of Charmin or not, many jobs are at stake as the economy continues to fall more and more each day into a recession. One industry among most that falls into this critical category of detriment is travel & tourism. With the uncertainty around travel bans, countries closing their borders, and nation wide lock-downs, it is completely understandable to want to give into the hysteria and cancel your trip right away; but as someone in the travel industry who's currently feeling the weight of all of this, I ask you to please reconsider cancelling outright, and to just postpone to a later date.
The travel & tourism industry makes up 10% of global GDP, and the end result of COVID-19 could very well be some 50 million individuals out of work. While many are strapped for cash and hesitant to spend during these unsettling times, it is admirable and encouraged to continue to try and support small businesses which are struggling financially. It is easy to lack compassion and have oversight into what this could mean for the travel industry; when you look into large-scale corporation agencies like Amex, huge hotel chains, or billion dollar airlines, you can become complacent to what elements of the industry are really at risk here, or most importantly, who.
Many travel agents are independent and have a book of their own business, working strictly off commission. When you cancel your trip, they lose their only source of income - and with travel projected to not make a return back to normal for ~10 months post-coronavirus, that can put someone in a terrifying and unsettling place. What is even more often overlooked are the teams on the ground in destination who work to secure your services and lead the way once you arrive. These teams can be a family run business, a local office of 5-6 people, an individual tour guide/driver; when you cancel, their wages disappear as well, they get laid off, and more often than not, these are people from countries with generally lower wealth than places like the States, and who already live humbly as it is. This deficit of business can and will be devastating and detrimental to their very livelihood.
When you postpone, these independent travel agents and on-the-ground teams can maneuver and execute your trip at a later date, therefore they are not at a loss and are still guaranteed the business. They can continue to support themselves and their families and pay their bills, and in return, you still get to experience the same great trip you would have anyway, just at a different date than you were planning on.
Not to mention, it is more usually more cost efficient to move dates than to cancel. Services such as trains, airfare, theater tickets etc. are typically non-refundable. In some cases, these services are transferable, especially in the wake of extraordinary circumstances like we are currently experiencing. When you cancel outright and demand 100% of your money back even though these non-refundable services have already been booked, guess who has to fork out that cash? The independent travel agent who's already losing all of their income. That in-destination employee who has a young family to feed. Times that by thousands of trips at once and tens of thousands of people, and you have an adverse impact on not only the travel industry, but on these small businesses and individuals lives. This is why, unless you are dealing with a large cruise line who holds a monopoly over the boat/excursions or a coach tour, these penalties cannot be refunded, and you'll be out that money anyway. Sure, you can claim these fee's back from insurance, but if you're cancelling strictly as a result of #coronavirus, there is a good chance you will not be reimbursed as infectious disease is not a cover-able reason with insurance plans.
The uncertainty of these times will end, borders will re-open and people will begin traveling again. We will all get through this in due time, and the simple act of postponing your trip instead of cancelling could save the travel industry and the individuals who work for it. Supporting the tourism industry is supporting small businesses, it's supporting countries who need us most; and in the end, that further helps to avoid a significant worldwide economic catastrophe. Many agencies are happy to pivot however they can to help out during this perilous time. The least we can do as a collective is match that support.
Just postpone your dates.