There is concern at many schools in relation to the Coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak and the impact on overseas travel currently booked or planned. Latitude Group Travel, the leading provider of educational tours and AHISA corporate partner, provides the following advice to schools to assist them in their next steps.
What is Coronavirus?
As defined by the World Health Organisation: Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe disease Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). The novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. Signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
How does the travel industry get its information?
The Australian travel industry, including Latitude Group Travel relies on the information and guidance of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) in determining whether it is safe to travel to any particular destination. This information is posted on https://www.smartraveller.gov.au.
What should a school do if they have a trip to China booked?
As per the current the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) warning (as at 11/02/2020), it is advised not to travel to China at the moment.
Should your travel be in the first half of 2020, you should contact your travel provider immediately and determine the cancellation process. You should also check with your travel insurance company to understand your rights and the cancellation process. Should you be travelling in the second half of the year, depending on whether your tour operator has booked your flights and accommodation as yet, you may have a window of time ‘to wait and see’ before making a decision. Contact your tour operator to determine which components have and have not been booked. For tour components that have not yet been booked, what is the latest date they can be confirmed? Ensure you negotiate the maximum amount of time to make a final decision. It is possible the situation may have been resolved by then.
What should a school do if they have a trip booked in 2020 which is not going to China?
DFAT currently has no travel warnings regarding Coronavirus COVID-19 in locations outside of China. Latitude Group Travel is monitoring the advice from DFAT and is currently supporting a number of tour departures for the coming months to travel as per normal.
Schools may be fielding enquiries from concerned parents. Latitude Group Travel encourages schools to direct parents to the DFAT website for factual information about their child’s planned destination(s).
Is there any impact on Chinese Nations at Australian schools currently booked on an outbound tour?
Yes, currently some countries will not issue a visa to a Chinese National regardless of residency. If you have Chinese citizens travelling on any outbound tour, please contact your tour provider for assistance.
What should a school do if they are still wanting to book trips in 2020?
Should your school be currently planning a trip for 2020 or wish to replace a cancelled trip, there is still time to plan a quality educational experience to all lower risk destinations, including some fantastic locations within Australia. Latitude Group Travel constantly monitors the DFAT travel warnings and understands where is safe to travel.
STEM – USA, UK and Europe, Australia
History – Greece, Italy, France, Australia, Spain, Russia and the rest of Europe
The Arts and Performing Arts – USA, UK and Europe, Australia
Language – France, Italy, Japan, Germany
Other Humanities – USA, Japan, Europe, Hawaii, New Zealand
Latitude Group Travel offers priority service to all schools affected by the current situation to ensure your travel programs can be up and running as soon as possible. If you have a specific question about your school’s situation, call 03 9646 4200 or submit an enquiry now.