Travel agents say Coronavirus hasn’t impacted business yet, but they’re prepared

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – New information today regarding the Coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19, with the CDC issuing a Level 2 Travel Health Alert for Italy, recommending using precaution prior to traveling.

New today, Delta temporarily reduced the number of weekly flights it operates between the U.S. and Seoul-Incheon (ICN), South Korea, due to health concerns related to coronavirus.

All this comes after the CDC recommended travelers avoid all nonessential travel to the People’s Republic of China (this does not include Hong Kong, Macau, or the island of Taiwan).

These warnings are becoming worrisome for travelers and it’s impacting the people who book their trips– travel agents.

News 2 visited Herron Travel Wednesday afternoon and within the seven-ish minutes we were there, Genie Herron’s phone rang three times. To put it simply, the woman is busy.

We asked her if the Coronavirus was impacting business– she said yes, but not in the way you’d think. She’s not seeing less business, she’s actually busier, trying to calm some people down, while others place their bookings on hold.

“There’s a lot of concerns for people that are traveling and they don’t really know if it’s going to be cured before they go or not,” Herron said. “It will have some impact because some people are afraid to travel.

Yet, Deborah Hampton, CEO at Savvy Traveler, says she’s seen no change at all.

“Most of my travelers are either going to the Caribbean on cruises or they’re doing all-inclusive in the Caribbean,” Hampton said. ​ “The Caribbean seems to be safe at the moment.” ​

Other areas aren’t so lucky. Globally, we’re seeing more than 80,000 cases, 2,400 of which are outside of China, spread across 33 countries; including, Italy, Germany, France, Singapore, Australia, and Japan.

You can see the latest numbers here.

All this is impacting the travel insurance business, Herron says their phone lines are ringing off the hook.

“I haven’t been able to figure it out yet on whether they cover epidemics,” Herron said. “They emailed me to tell me there are long hold times on the phone.”

If you plan to travel the U.S Department of State suggests enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to receive updates.

CDC recommends avoiding nonessential travel to China. If you must travel the CDC says this:

  • Avoid contact with sick people.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Discuss travel to China with your healthcare provider. Older adults and travelers with chronic medical conditions may be at risk for more severe disease.
  • Clean your hands often by washing them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60%-95% alcohol. Soap and water should be used if hands are visibly dirty.
    • It is especially important to clean hands after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.

If you spent time in China during the past 14 days and feel sick with fever or cough, or have difficulty breathing:

  • Seek medical advice. Call ahead before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room. Tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
  • Avoid contact with others. 
  • Do not travel while sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Clean your hands often by washing them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60%-95% alcohol immediately after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose. Soap and water should be used if hands are visibly dirty.

Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

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