Skift Take

A greater appreciation of travel and its many segments could be a positive outcome of the coronavirus pandemic. But until the storm blows over, many small businesses in the Asian tourism industry are facing survival threats.

The global travel industry is facing its biggest-ever existential crisis as the coronavirus outbreak envelops the world at large.

At a time when demand for travel services has plummeted while travelers cancel existing bookings at an unprecedented rate, this week’s featured story takes a look at how Asia’s travel advisors are now caught in a daunting predicament as they navigate the messy world of last-minute cancellations and refund requests.

The critical role that travel advisors play as go-between, however, is not always understood by clients, with some even claiming fraud when compensation is not forthcoming. On the suppliers’ end, travel advisors have cited challenges in getting refunds and compensation from airlines, whose policies they have called out as “inflexible” or “discriminatory.”

A common refrain of travel advisors is their desire for more support from other sectors of the industry. This could include airlines easing their compensation policies with friendlier initiatives such as cash in place of credit refunds or hotels billing advisor commissions into their deals during tough times like now.

A greater appreciation of the wide-reaching scope of the travel ecosystem and its many small but important segments would be a silver lining of the coronavirus pandemic.

— Xinyi Liang-Pholsena, Skift Asia Editor, [email protected], @xinyi_pholsena

Get the Latest on Coronavirus and the Travel Industry on Skift’s Liveblog

Skift Stories and More Expert Insights

Asia’s Travel Advisors Caught in the Middle of Cancellation Quandary: The coronavirus crisis accentuates the value of travel advisors as much as it highlights their plight as go-betweens in the tourism sector. But a bigger question looms: Will these travel intermediaries in Asia survive the onslaught of this latest crisis?

Singapore Hotels See Some Hope as Bookings Surge After Malaysia Lockdown: Without the spread of the coronavirus being contained or widespread travel restrictions being lifted, any increase in hotel occupancy is little more than a short-term blip.

The Day the World Stopped Traveling: A Letter From Skift’s Founder: Travel is the most consequential industry in the world, as the world is now finding out due to lack of travel. Skift aims to be the most consequential company deciphering this and the path ahead. Support our work.

Travel Brands, Remember Who You Really Serve — The Traveling Public: The travel industry went from overtourism to no tourism in a matter of weeks. Why are so many brands acting like they aren’t in the midst of an existential challenge and period of violent change?

No, It’s Not Fine to Keep Hosting Live Events: Mixed messages are still coming from the industry about the safety of meetings and traveling despite travel bans and national emergencies that have led to lockdowns. It’s time to take responsibility for our industry and cancel your meeting.

Nothing Could Stop the Cruise Industry — Then Came Coronavirus: The cruise industry has weathered a lot of bad news unscathed. But the coronavirus crisis seems different. This could be a seminal moment for the industry — and not in a good way.

Coronavirus Panic Outlines Limits of Most Travel Insurance: Airline and online travel agencies have been under fire from legislators in recent years for their travel insurance marketing tactics. In these trying times, these companies now more than ever must provide greater transparency into what their policies do — and don’t — provide before consumers click the button to purchase.

What Nervous Travel Startup Investors and Founders Should Watch for Next: From short-term rentals to tours and activities to corporate travel, here are pockets of the travel tech startup sector to follow closely in the weeks ahead.

Hotels Face Bigger Hit Than Post-9/11 and Great Recession Combined: Hospitality Official Warns: Will the U.S.government be able to bail out everyone? The line of businesses and people hoping for relief is getting very long.

Asia Editor Xinyi Liang-Pholsena [[email protected]] curates the Skift Asia Weekly newsletter. Skift emails the newsletter every Wednesday.

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Tags: coronavirus, cruises, skift asia weekly, travel advisors, travel agents

Photo credit: Small players in the travel industry are especially hard hit by the coronavirus crisis as tour bookings demand dries up. Traditional cyclos ride down the streets of Hanoi, Vietnam. studiolaska / Adobe

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