One of New Zealand's biggest travel agencies says coronavirus fears have resulted in few cancellations from clients, although consultants have been busy rebooking new flights for others who had been flying through China.
House of Travel commercial director Brent Thomas said China — now subject to a "don't go" warning from this country's Government — was not a major destination for New Zealanders and total sales exceeded the same period a year ago.
"It's certainly not deterring people from travel except to China. We know we would have had greater sales if this hadn't have happened, but the numbers are still up on last year so it's not impacting us from that point of view."
Chinese airlines have provided another route to Europe, with many fares at budget rates, but some passengers were now opting to go through countries other than China.
Staff were dealing with more inquiries about previously booked trips as well as arranging new ones.
"People are working harder and longer. We are dealing with a whole lot of new bookings and dealing with a number of inquiries from those who aren't just travelling to China but are worried about the coronavirus."
Travel agents had experience and expertise to do this, but it was more difficult for travellers who had booked themselves through websites.
"It's not just about airfares, it's about he knock-on impact — hotels, car rentals and sightseeing. If you're trying to rearrange that yourself, which one do you get to first?"
Thomas said events which severely disrupted travel made a "positive out of a negative" for agents.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
They also could advise travellers on insurance, he said.
"With insurance, we have the expertise to know what the policies are, but people who have done it from scratch don't know what they are — it makes it tricky."
Thomas, who also heads the Travel Agents' Association of NZ (Taanz), said travellers needed to be insured for all events.
"Most insurance policies won't cover you for coronavirus because it is a known event, but the strong message is that if you're travelling, take out insurance because more can go wrong than catching coronavirus."
He had some general advice. "The key message — it has to be the customer's choice. They should be informed by what the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is saying on the Safe Travel website. At the end of the day they are the experts."