Coronavirus affects local travel agencies


PORTSMOUTH, Va (WAVY) – The airline and cruise industries have been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak.

Airlines are cutting back on flights and leery travelers are canceling their cruises.

Several cruises are still set to leave from Hampton Roads this month, a spokesperson from Nauticus said in a statement.

The statement reads: “As per the United States Coast Guard, there is currently no scheduled interruption to ship traffic in Hampton Roads. Norfolk’s cruise season begins in April. Its Decker Half Moone Center maintains a robust cleaning schedule throughout the year. Standard cleaning procedures include bathrooms, floors, windows, counter tops and door handles. Additionally, soap dispensers and hand-sanitizer dispensers are stocked and located throughout the facility. We will continue to work closely with the U.S. Coast Guard and our cruise industry partners to ensure the safety and health of cruise passengers coming to and leaving from Norfolk.”

But for local travel agents, this can have long-term effects.

Elizabeth Psimas said she had a client booked to travel throughout eastern Asia last month on a cruise, but once the coronavirus spread everything changed. Flights, bookings and vacations were canceled.

“Now I’m making changes, I’m being a psychiatrist saying ‘Should you go, should you not go?” I’m reading these adversaries,” she said.

But is it the fear of contracting the illness that’s leading people to make a change?

“It’s not so much that they’re afraid to get on the plane or afraid that the virus is in Barbados, it’s what happens if they can’t get back home,” she said.

Nevertheless, this uproar is hurting her wallet.

“I’m definitely getting less bookings. My bookings are down about probably 20 percent right now,” she explained. “I’m busy servicing customers instead of selling new things and I need to be selling new things so that my income is protected down the road.”

She says everyday she is getting new updates from cruise and airline companies.

“We figured this is probably going to get worse before it gets better, it’s just a question of how much time does it take?” she said.

Psimas predicts there will be long-lasting effects for everyone.

“The industry will rebound, but it’s going to take a while and the traveling public is going to have to get their confidence back. Being on a airplane, being on a cruise ship, being on a subway, being on a crowded resor,t all of these things are going to factor into it,” she said.

In the meantime, there are cheaper flights and cruise deals. Psimas said if you’re well and able, there are some good deals out there, just take care of yourself first and use insurance.

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