Coronavirus causes local travel concerns

Pandemic could delay arrival of international students who work summer jobs
March 13, 2020

The continued worldwide spread of COVID-19 has put many travel plans in jeopardy for Cape Region residents.

Milton resident Louise Huntley is planning to travel to Germany in May with her sister to see the Oberammergau Passion Play, a performance that occurs every 10 years in the Bavarian state. The current global situation has her worried she will have to miss it.

“My sister and I want to go because our parents were German and they were there 50 years ago,” she said. “This will be our only chance to go. It will never work out this way again.” 

But international travel is not the only thing being impacted by the coronavirus. Janet and John George of Milton are supposed to go to the Boston Marathon in April to cheer on their daughter who finally qualified for the event after running more than a dozen marathons. 

“We just don’t know what’s going to happen,” John said. “I guess it’s just like everything else, it’s day to day.” 

The Tokyo Marathon earlier this month was limited to only elite runners, while the New York Half Marathon was canceled. Other major running events were postponed to the fall. 

Michael Schaffer and Ellen Fritz of Lewes have several trips planned in the coming year, including a cruise around the Chesapeake Bay, a group trip to Italy and another trip to Canada. 

“Right now we’re in limbo,” Michael said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen with this epidemic or pandemic. We have the insurance and we can cancel, but we would rather go on our trips.” 

Michael said the biggest thing they’re avoiding at this time is flying. Ellen said they’re continuing to live their life as usual at home. 

“We are going out to eat and stuff. I would feel very deprived if I couldn’t do that,” she said. “But at the same time, we’re trying not to take big chances.”

Michael Carroll, who works in financial planning and wealth management, discussed travel insurance options at the March 11 meeting of the Delmarva Bucket List Travel Club. 

“If you’ve saved money and you’re going to go on a nice trip, it really only makes sense to buy trip cancellation,” he said, noting some plans allow travelers to cancel a trip as close as one day before, but they may not get all of their money back the closer it is to the departure date. 

“If it’s a sickness or accident, most of them will give you everything back,” he said. 

He cautioned travelers to not confuse trip cancellation with trip delay or trip interruption, and urged anyone planning to travel soon to research plans before making a choice. It’s also very important to read the fine print, he said.

“We live in a country that loves fine print,” he said. 

In addition to securing insurance to safeguard against cancellation, he also suggests getting travel medical insurance when traveling abroad, because most health insurances do not cover individuals when they’re outside this country.

“[The coronavirus] has caused havoc in so many aspects of our life,” he said. “If you’re trying to travel, the best thing that can ever happen is you waste your money on [insurance] and you never need it.”

Annette Stellhorn, president of Rehoboth-based Accent on Travel, has been sending out regular emails to clients updating them on issues related to traveling abroad. In a March 10 email, Stellhorn said cruise partners are indicating they intend to operate cruises as scheduled. Many travelers are onboard ships now around the world, she said, adding the current estimate is 500,000 people worldwide.

Cautioning travelers to make sure they check each cruise line’s cancellation policy, Stellhorn said most cruise lines are offering a 100 percent credit on future cruises if a trip is cancelled up to 48 hours prior to departure. They should note that in most cases, she said, the credit is good through the end of 2022.

“This is a unique offer we have never seen before, but certainly apropos for these times in that it offers the traveler a high level of flexibility and time to watch as the situation evolves,” said Stellhorn.

Similar to cruise lines, Stellhorn said many airlines have instituted flexible change policies for new and existing reservations. But note, she said, unless a flight has been cancelled and it’s a fully refundable ticket, there is no option for a refund.

Ending her letter, Stellhorn said the situation is fluid, and it’s best to continue to monitor. Many cruise lines and airlines may choose to cancel departures or may modify their cancellation and refund policies further as this situation progresses, she said.

International students working locally

They aren’t here yet, but in a normal year, local businesses would be preparing for the arrival of foreign students on J1 Visas.

Maryanne Kauffman, director of the local International Student Outreach Program, said at this point, all the participating businesses have jobs and housing set up for the students, some of whom are coming from high-risk areas. Last year, she said, there were 65 students from China and 121 from Turkey.

Kauffman said her organization is moving forward as if all the students are going to be here. Everyone is hopeful the students will be able to come, but nobody really knows, she said.

If they don’t come, it will be a nightmare for business owners, said Kauffman. This program brings more than 1,000 employees who can begin work before Memorial Day and stay past Labor Day.

“It would be devastating,” said Kauffman. “The students are an important part of our economy.”


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