Asia’s Travel Advisors Caught in the Middle of Cancellation Quandary

Mark Schiefelbein / Associated Press

In their role as travel intermediaries, travel agents are caught between a rock and a hard place as they assist their customers to seek refunds from suppliers like airlines, hotels and attractions. Mark Schiefelbein / Associated Press

Skift Take: 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?

— Xinyi Liang-Pholsena

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Travel Advisors Deal With Torrent of Spring Break Cancellations, Vacation Swaps

Exhale Spa

One travel advisor’s clients from New Rochelle, New York, figured it would be safer to travel to Turks and Caicos than to stay home, where one of the U.S.’ viral cluster outbreaks has formed. Pictured is an undated photo from Exhale Spa in Turks and Caicos. Exhale Spa

Skift Take: Spring break travel is in wait-and-see mode as travel advisors field calls from clients rattled by the coronavirus pandemic. Some travelers are swapping their trips for “safer” spots like Hawaii, Florida, and the Caribbean.

— Dennis Schaal

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Russia Stops All International Flights, Even for Repatriation

Aeroflot

An Aeroflot aircraft in the skies. Russia’s national carrier had been flying special trips to repatriate citizens stranded due to the coronavirus crisis. Aeroflot

Skift Take: Russia had already closed its borders to foreigners. But its sudden stop of all flights risks stranding many citizens abroad and preventing people from leaving the country.

— Sean O’Neill

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Tourism Marketing’s Coronavirus Conundrum and 14 Top Tourism Stories This Week

vekidd / Adobe

Bamboo grove forest in Kyoto, Japan. Merchants in Kyoto’s Arashiyama neighborhood — which includes the bamboo forest, a tourist and Instagram hotspot — have created a series of posters depicting the area’s popular tourist attractions as empty. With hashtags that translate to #nopeople and #nowisthetime, it seems intended to encourage travelers to visit despite the perceived risks. vekidd / Adobe

Skift Take: This week in tourism news, destination marketing organizations find themselves in a pickle. Should they carry on with promotional campaigns amid growing fears over coronavirus? Also, Skift launches a one-on-one interview series. Founder and CEO Rafat Ali candidly talks with industry leaders on travel’s path forward as the world grapples with, and recovers from, the virus crisis.

— Faye Chiu

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Feds Come to Rescue of Flyers With Hardball Mandate to U.S. Airlines on Refunds

Dave Montiverdi / Flickr

JetBlue will have to offer more refunds to customers. Pictured is one of the airline’s Airbus A320 jets. Dave Montiverdi / Flickr

Skift Take: Crisis or not, the U.S. government made it clear that airlines owe refunds to a lot of customers. Airlines don’t want to see cash go out the door, so look for more carriers to take creative approaches to try to buy passengers off and keep them from asking for their money back.

— Brian Sumers

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What This Decision by American Airlines Says About How Fast Demand Will Recover

Mark Harkin / Flickr

American Airlines is making international schedule cuts for Summer 2020. Pictured is one of the airline’s Boeing 777-200 aircraft. Mark Harkin / Flickr

Skift Take: The surprise here is not how many international flights American Airlines is cutting this summer. It is how many the airline intends to operate. American is only cutting 60 percent of its international flights this summer, compared to 2019. That seems optimistic.

— Brian Sumers

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United Airlines President No Longer Counting on Quick ‘Snap Back’

United Airlines

If demand does not recover, United would retire its Boeing 757s, airline president Scott Kirby said Thursday. United Airlines

Skift Take: United Airlines is in great peril, losing $100 million in revenue per day. But its CEO-in-waiting is already thinking about how the airline can emerge stronger from this crisis. Let’s see if he can pull it off.

— Brian Sumers

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Virtual Reality Gives Training Boost to Asia’s Displaced Hotel Workers During Crisis Downtime

Passport to Success Myanmar

A capture of the 360-degree virtual reality visuals that hospitality staff see during their training. Pictured is the lobby of The Strand Hotel in Yangon, Myanmar. Passport to Success Myanmar

Skift Take: With borders shut and hotels closed during the coronavirus pandemic, this could be the moment for remote training — and virtual reality’s role — in hospitality to shine and take off.

— Xinyi Liang-Pholsena

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