Tourists with plans to travel to China should be able to cancel at no cost
Foreign Affairs advisory notice means tour operators should refund or reschedule trips
A pilot wearing a protective suit parks a cargo aircraft at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport. Photograph: Cheng Min/Xinhua via AP
Irish tourists planning to travel to China in the days and weeks ahead should be able to cancel their plans at no cost as a result of the latest advisory from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
It updated its travel advice on Wednesday and said Irish citizens should avoid non-essential travel to China as the number of coronavirus deaths and confirmed cases of the illness continues to rise sharply.
Once such an official advisory is in place people who have booked independent holidays and travel insurance should be able to claim for any losses they have incurred while tour operators should also process refunds or reschedule trips.
Irish holiday makers in China have been urged to “stay indoors where possible” and to be “aware of delays and checks when moving within the country and at airports.
The Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) said tourists should avoid travelling to the Hubei province of China entirely and reconsider travelling to the rest of the country unless it was absolutely essential amid the outbreak of coronavirus in a number of Chinese cities.
It also said holidaymakers in the country should follow the advice of the DFA, Chinese local authorities and accommodation providers.
Travel restrictions are in place across all major cities and the Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism has suspended all tour group companies’ activities to prevent further virus spread which may cause disruptions to travel plans.
The ITAA said Irish travellers in affected areas should “stay indoors where possible and to avoid large gatherings”.
The DFA has advised travellers already in the country to take extra care, wash their hands regularly with alcohol-based soap, wear single use masks and observe food safety as recommended by the World Health Organisation.
The president of the ITAA John Spollen said that while airports in China were still operating “there are increased security measures in place. As the situation remains fluid, containment measures could be increased at any time.”
He said travellers “should be aware of delays and checks when moving within China, entering or leaving, especially at airports. If you are affected, you should contact your tour operator or travel agent.”
The ITAA also said that travellers currently in China who wish to return early should contact their travel provider to discuss their options while intending travellers should maintain contact with their travel adviser and tour operator for travel updates.