Global Pandemic, weather mayhem and cancellations….
What happens to your short term let business when guests, or weather events of Biblical proportions, let you down?
What does more harm, the virus, or worrying about the virus?
February-March is a funny old time of year. Portsmouth is prone to 'look & book' reservations so the stormy weather has put many people off. So far I have also had a few cancellations due to coronavirus, real or imagined, guests will try whatever they can to get out of a 'non-refundable' by any means necessary. The cancellations have been handled in different ways depending on the circumstances.
The spread of coronavirus, also known as Covid-19, to and within Europe has sparked huge concern among guests.
The health secretary, Matt Hancock, has said that anyone returning from the 11 Italian towns should self-isolate for two weeks. (Anyone for Netflix break?).
Anyone returning from northern Italy with possible symptoms of Covid-19 should also self-isolate. The symptoms are similar to a heavy cold: sneezing, itchiness and a blocked or runny nose. "Maybe a cough, tightness of the chest," adds Dr Simon Clarke of the University of Reading. "If you do [show symptoms], quarantine yourself for a couple of weeks." (The Independent).
Coronavirus has so far cost me 3 bookings, not all cancelled at the last minute. One was from China, there has been a 'force majeure' issued by booking.com (the main source of bookings) for bookings from mainland China. This means that you are obliged to cancel these without charge or redress for your business. We all want to do our bit but really? Isn't that what travel insurance is for? Booking.com are firmly on the side of the guest in cases like this so occasional 'dirty tricks' are needed to fight your corner as a business. I would tell you about them here but I would then have to kill you to maintain secrecy.
A second has cancelled (with a couple of weeks' notice) as her parents are too afraid to travel due to the virus, this was within free cancellation rules so no problem there.
Booking 3 was a case of 'self-isolation' (2 weeks under the duvet anyone?), sorry, no refund for this chap, he then didn't cancel after all 'hoping to be well enough to travel'.
Most travel insurance will exclude 'global pandemic', coronavirus has not yet achieved this status, no doubt it will, then I am well and truly in the mud with bookings. Here is the advice (for hosts amongst us) from a travel insurance industry insider:
- In the event a beneficiary is taken ill with the Corona Virus prior to their trip and is unable to travel they will be able to lodge a claim under the cancellation and curtailment section.
- In the event a beneficiary is taken ill with the Corona Virus during their trip they will be able to lodge a claim under the emergency medical section for necessary treatment, repatriation etc.
- In the event a beneficiary is in compulsory quarantine on the order of a treating medical practitioner they will be able to lodge a claim under the cancellation and curtailment section of the policy.
- Unfortunately if a government prohibits or restricts travel this is not covered by the policy.
- Travel against advice of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office or the World Health Organisation is a general exclusion of the policy.
Currently therefore with no FCO advice against travel the guest will not be covered if they choose to cancel. But they are well covered if they decide to travel and the worst happens. As soon as the FCO advise against travel the situation changes! Hope this helps with any cancellations!
Many guests will jump on any excuse going. I have had a number of 'dead Aunties' in the lives of my poor bereaved guests and sometimes wonder if there are any Aunties left at all! Experience has taught me to only offer to re-book alternative dates or give a discount off a future stay. When a refund is not offered the guests' Aunties sometimes recover from death surprisingly quickly so that they can come after all.
The continual process of selling bookings is very much a feature of holiday lets, as a long-time landlord I used to enjoy the 'set and forget' nature of the business, I now spend time every day wondering about, identifying and implementing strategies to maximise bookings. When I look at my properties though, still looking sparkling 3-4 years after renovation I know that the path has been worthwhile, the virus crisis and the storms will end (hopefully with all our roofs intact!) and as soon as the sun comes out the visitors think of Southsea for their next trip. Let's hope that a look at Stopover Portsmouth's website www.stopoverport.co.uk tempts them in. Charlotte.