TICO & Agents On What To Say About Zika

Open Jaw
by Bruce Parkinson

Agents can say as much or as little as they want to clients heading to destinations where the Zika virus is active. They just have to say something.

That’s the essence of a conversation with Travel Industry Council of Ontario Vice President, Operations Dorian Werda. She’s been surprised by some of the reaction to a bulletin titled Reports of Zika Virus and Registrant Responsibility under the Travel Industry Act, 2002.

The document’s main message is that “Registrants have a duty to warn customers of the reports of Zika Virus.” No surprise there. It’s part of an agent’s duty of care to disclose government warnings.

What some agents and observers seem to have reacted to is the line: “Travel agents may also have a continuing obligation to inform customers of a deteriorating situation in the travel destination after the travel services have been reserved.”

With the real dangers of the Zika Virus still unconfirmed, and developments coming frequently, it’s difficult to tell if the situation is deteriorating or not.

But Werda said informing customers about the situation and offering access to regularly updated information is enough. “It’s no different than with the Swine Flu or the H1N1 Virus. The bulletin is very similar to what we put out for those, because the legislation has been in place for years.”

Werda says agents simply have to inform clients about a situation that may impact their decision to purchase, as they have on those prior occasions.

“Do you want to provide medical advice? Absolutely not. Registrants don’t have to say a whole lot, but informing clients about things like this is not only a requirement, it is part of the value professional travel advisors bring to their clients.”

Belleville-based independent travel advisor Sonya Thomas, a member of The Travel Agent Next Door, says the massive media coverage of Zika makes the job easier. “I am well aware clients know about this, heck it is all over the news, social media etc. So if a client calls, or if l know they are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, why take the chance?”

But Thomas says with new information on Zika coming out all the time, it’s important to stay current. “l think this is one of those things you need to keep up to date on, but if l have questions l will refer to TICO's information on how to let clients know.”

CAA South Central Ontario has a clearly-written piece on its website titled “Get the Facts About Zika Virus Before You Travel.” It acknowledges the risks, stating “pregnant women should consider postponing their trip to Zika-affected regions.” But it also gives a good overview that clients can use to make their personal decision.

“We are not being alarmist,” says Dianne Jackson, CAASCO Director, Travel & Retail Product. “It’s more of a ‘know before you go.’”

Here are a few other places you can go to find up to date information on the Zika Virus.

  • The Public Health Agency of Canada has recommendations for travellers to protect themselves against mosquito bites.
  • The World Heath Organization (WHO) also has useful information regarding the Zika Virus
  • You’ll find the Travel Report by country issued by Foreign Affairs Canada here.

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