Another event in the cancellation games

Jamie Biesiada

The Tokyo Olympics are just another in a long string of cancellations travel advisors have had to deal with in the past 15 months.

The games were originally set for 2020, but shifted into 2021 due to Covid. Some spectators were going to be permitted until a week ago, when Japan declared a state of emergency with Covid-19 cases on the rise.

It’s a good opportunity for a reminder to read the fine print on what you’re booking for your clients — and make sure they understand it, too.

Related: Olympic travel a big challenge for some Pacific Island teams

Before the pandemic, it appeared the Tokyo games would be very popular, said Dave Guenther, founder and president of sports travel package provider Roadtrips. Japan was already a hot destination, and the coronavirus wasn’t a factor. Packages were selling well.

“Things for the Tokyo Olympics have been changing, it seems, on a constant basis for the last year,” Guenther said. 

“For our clients, it is difficult because sports travel packages are usually bought on a nonrefundable basis,” he added. “And that’s necessitated by the fact that the underlying contracts that go to make those kinds of arrangements are all prepaid, nonrefundable, noncancelable type of contracts.”

According to Guenther, the only way to get tickets and hotels at mega sporting events like the Olympics is by fully committing, meaning packages are nonrefundable and noncancelable.

And, unfortunately, insurers have been denying claims for the Tokyo games, citing exclusion due to “government regulations or actions,” Guenther said. (Chubb, Roadtrips’ recommended insurer, is enabling clients to transfer their insurance up to 720 days from the date of purchase, which will enable them to cover a different, future trip).

Roadtrips has been offering clients two choices. They can opt for a comparable experience (similar quality hotel, similar tickets) to one of the next two Olympics: the Winter Games in Beijing in 2022 or the Summer Games in Paris in 2024. Or Roadtrips will go to bat for them and attempt to get a refund from suppliers.

“We’ve had varying degrees of success for getting at least some refunds,” Guenther said, but for the most part, the organizing committee will not start the refunding process until after the games. Then, funds will go to the various ticket box offices and third parties that supplied them, which Roadtrips will then approach about refunds for its clients.

For those who want refunds, Roadtrips is advising that they likely won’t see them until 30 to 60 days after the games.

“We’ve had a lot of folks who also have been just really pleased about the options that we’ve provided, especially the offer to go to a future games,” he said, estimating that around 50% of Roadtrips clients who booked Tokyo have moved their bookings to Paris.

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