Speaking with three independent travel advisors, it looks like for now, the Omicron variant is not spurring panic in their clients, although there is a bit of worry, even for those planning vacations in late 2023.
Says Tom Varghese, owner, Travel Tom, “Honestly, we have had ZERO cancelations due to the new Omicron variant. But it has enforced our message that insurance is even more essential for travel (we have almost 100 percent attachment for insurance on our individual bookings).”
Speaking to the new travel rules in which all inbound travelers must take a COVID-19 test within one day of departure to the U.S., Varghese had just heard the breaking news and notes, “No issues again since most of the resorts that provide onsite COVID testing have come out with statements that assure our clients that they have resources in place to accommodate either situation.”
The new travel rule takes effect on Dec. 6, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noting in the amended order that, “As the virus that causes COVID-19 spreads, it has new opportunities to change (mutate) and become more difficult to control. While it is known and expected that viruses change through mutation leading to the emergence of new variants, the emergent Omicron variant is particularly concerning and of critical significance for this Amended Order.”
People who can show they have recovered from infection within the past 90 days are exempt.
Lainey Melnick, luxury travel professional, Dream Vacations-Lainey Melnick & Assoc, points out that her clients aren’t worried about Omicron “at this point.”
She stresses, “There is nothing that will be better for international travel than governments around the world doing what’s necessary to keep the pandemic under control and keep our clients safe. I’ve been traveling quite a bit and it’s encouraging how governments, resorts, cruise lines and airports are stepping up their efforts to make travel easier and safer.
“The home tests that meet CDC guidelines are very easy and inexpensive so those who are concerned about timing for the test to return to the U.S. can bring those with them as a back-up, but I haven’t had any issues in my recent travels to find a test within a day of return that give almost immediate results. I haven’t had any issues with testing from any of my clients either. I am thankful that there are people in leadership who are quick to respond to new information and keep us on the right path towards an end to this crisis.”
But Mellanie Ingle, franchise owner-luxury specialist, an independent agent of Cruise Planners, An American Express Travel Representative, says that the new variant has “caused concerns for those already booked. Concerns for those planning trips currently, yes. I have not had any actual cancelations as of yet, but I expect to for those I have going soon to countries that have closed borders, Israel and South Africa.
“I have had many calls from clients not even traveling until third and fourth quarter of next year, asking if they should postpone. I’m advising everyone, if they are not in penalty, to wait and see what the winter unfolds. If reports are accurate and it only presents mild flu symptoms, maybe it really is just a mild flu and not life threatening as we have been dealing with.”