NOTICE: The situation with coronavirus (COVID-19) is continuously evolving. As of March 23, 2020 the information on this page is current and accurate, but is subject to change as more information becomes known. We will continue to update this page regularly.
Our staff in the U.S. and in Europe are working around the clock to gather and communicate the latest information about how these recent events might impact your travel plans. We ask that you bear with us as we work to quickly find solutions for each unique individual situation. Please know that we are doing all we can to answer calls and respond to messages as fast as possible. Your patience and understanding is greatly appreciated!
- Recent Announcements
- Cancellation Penalties for Witte Tours
- Cancellation Penalties for Witte Travel
- Warning about Scams
- What is the Coronavirus?
- What Measures is Witte Travel & Tours taking to monitor the spread of Coronavirus and ensure the safety of all passengers?
- Does airline travel increase my risk of contracting the Coronavirus?
- If I choose to cancel my travel plans, will I get a refund?
- My travel plans were cancelled–when chan I expect a refund?
- Will my tour be cancelled? If so, what will happen next?
- Do I need to make my next scheduled payment?
- Can I reschedule my trip/tour?
- What can I do to avoid getting sick?
- What happens if I do get sick?
- My health insurance plan offers medical benefits while traveling. Do I still need to purchase travel insurance?
March 23: Governor Whitmer issued an executive order closing all non-essential businesses in Michigan starting March 24 through April 13. During this time, Witte Travel & Tours will continue operating virtually, addressing our most urgent priorities while abiding by the Governor’s order to close our physical office. Since our office and switchboard will be closed, the best way to reach us is by email:
Moving forward, our hours of operation will be Monday – Thursday from 10 AM to 4 PM.
As we adjust to these new circumstances, know that we will do our best to respond to you as quickly as possible, and please bear with us while we seek solutions and options. We stand together with our neighbors and partners, locally and globally, as we face unprecedented challenges without easy answers.
March 19, 2020: The U.S. State Department issued a Level 4: Do Not Travel advisory warning U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The advisory also urges Americans who are currently traveling internationally to arrange for an immediate return to the United States.
March 16: The President and the CDC recommended that we all practice social distancing measures in order to contain the spread of COVID-19. This means avoiding discretionary travel and gatherings of 10 or more people for the next 15 days.
March 16: The Vacation Department will close at 5:30pm on Wednesdays through April 15. Otherwise, our office continues to operate during our usual business hours, although we have temporarily closed our office doors to visitors as a precaution. In the meantime, we have equipped our staff members to work effectively from home so that we can continue provide the same high quality of service that has been our standard since 1975.
March 11, 2020: The Director-General of the World Health Organization announced during a COVID-19 media briefing that the outbreak of COVID-19 has been characterized as a pandemic.
March 11, 2020: President Trump addressed the nation and gave a proclamation announcing that travel to the U.S. by foreign nationals coming from any of 26 European countries will be restricted for 30 days, beginning at midnight on Friday, March 13. This travel restriction does not apply to legal permanent residents, (most) immediate family members of U.S. citizens, and other individuals identified in the proclamation. U.S. citizens returning from Europe will be allowed to return, but American travelers coming from the Schengen Area will be required to travel through select airports and undergo screenings before they can re-enter the country.
March 12, 2020: The U.S. State Department issued a Level 3 Global Health Advisory, advising U.S. citizens to reconsider travel abroad due to the global impact of COVID-19. The advisory states: “Many areas throughout the world are now experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and taking action that may limit traveler mobility, including quarantines and border restrictions. Even countries, jurisdictions, or areas where cases have not been reported may restrict travel without notice.”
CANCELLATION PENALTIES FOR WITTE TOURS
On March 1, 2020, Witte Tours opted to freeze all cancellation penalties for Witte-operated tours departing through 5/31/2020. This means that all cancellation penalty fees* will not increase after March 1st, as was previously stated in each tour’s terms and conditions. Therefore, you can comfortably wait to make any decisions about your trip without fear of incurring additional costs.
*The cancellation penalty freeze noted above refers to the fee that Witte Tours would apply if you choose to cancel your booking. Special arrangements such as business class upgrades, flight deviations, or extended stays may incur additional penalties.
CANCELLATION PENALTIES FOR WITTE TRAVEL
If you’ve booked travel arrangements through a Witte Travel Vacation Consultant, any cancellations or changes may be subject to penalties issued by the travel suppliers holding your reservations. Airlines, cruise lines, and leisure tour operators are frequently adjusting their change and cancellation policies, so please contact your Travel Consultant for the latest information regarding any cancellation fees that may apply to your unique trip.
WARNING AGAINST SCAMS
It is an unfortunate truth that some unscrupulous individuals will take advantage of opportunities to scam travelers during times of uncertainty by preying on their fears. There have been reports within the travel industry that an anonymous phone number was calling travelers “on behalf of your local travel agent” to offer extended cancel-for-any-reason travel insurance for an upcoming trip. When the caller was asked to provide the name of the travel agent and the travel destination, the caller simply hung up.
Please be on alert for potential scams. If you receive any communication from Witte Travel & Tours that seems suspicious or unusual, we encourage you to ask questions before providing any information, or simply hang up the phone and contact our office for verification.
WHAT IS THE CORONAVIRUS?
Coronavirus (also known as COVID-19) is part of a large group of viruses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) list the following as symptoms of coronavirus, which may appear 2-14 days after exposure:
- Respiratory symptoms
- Shortness of breath
Severe cases can cause more serious symptoms such as pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and kidney failure. (Read more about symptoms here.)
WHAT MEASURES IS WITTE TRAVEL & TOURS TAKING TO MONITOR THE SPREAD OF CORONAVIRUS AND ENSURE THE SAFETY OF ALL PASSENGERS?
- Our team is closely monitoring the situation by reviewing all travel warnings, recommendations, and advisories from the U.S. State Department, the World Health Organization, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- We hold daily staff meetings to ensure that all our staff members are properly briefed on the most current information.
- We are in constant communication with airlines, vendors, and our network of in-country partners for the latest news and updates.
- If we have any reason to be concerned that your travel plans could put you at risk, we will contact you to discuss your options.
DOES AIRLINE TRAVEL INCREASE MY RISK OF CONTRACTING THE CORONAVIRUS?
Because the cabin air on an airplane is circulated and filtered every 2-3 minutes using HEPA filters, most viruses and germs cannot spread easily, so your risk of infection is not higher on an airplane. However, it is still a good practice to use antiseptic wipes on tray tables and armrests and to use your hand sanitizer before meals.
IF I CHOOSE TO CANCEL MY TRAVEL PLANS, WILL I GET A REFUND?
Refundability depends on different factors specific to your trip or tour. It is best to contact your Travel Consultant for your specific trip’s information. Generally speaking, it is unlikely that you will receive a full refund if you cancel your trip due to the fear of contracting COVID-19, even if you have purchased travel insurance. Cancellation due to government travel advisories or travel bans, or due to concerns relating to a viral outbreak, are not eligible reasons for coverage under most standard travel insurance plans. If you purchased a “Cancel for Any Reason” plan, refer to the terms of your insurance plan or contact the insurance provider to determine whether cancellation benefits apply.
My travel plans were cancelled– when can I expect a refund?
We are doing the best we can to issue refunds in a timely manner under these unique circumstances. However, due to the high volume of requests that we and our supplier partners are experiencing, it may take at least 6 – 8 weeks for your refund to be processed.
WILL MY TOUR BE CANCELLED? IF SO, WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT?
At this time, we are continuing to operate our scheduled tours as planned. In some cases, we are reviewing tour itineraries for potential changes in areas experiencing closures due to COVID-19 concerns. Witte partners with many local operators around the globe who are residents in the areas we travel. We are in frequent communication with them to better understand the potential impact, if any, to our passengers. In cases where we feel that itinerary adjustments are in the best interest of our passengers, we will notify all registered passengers of any changes in detail.
Do I need to make my next scheduled payment?
Witte-Operated Tours: If your tour is scheduled to operate as planned, continue to make payments as outlined in your tour brochure. All cancellation penalties have been frozen as of 3/1/2020, so you can be confident in receiving the rest of your money back if your tour does not travel.
All Other Travel: Some travel providers have modified their payment plans to extend final payment deadlines. If your final payment is due within the next four weeks, contact your travel advisor to see if there have been any revisions to your payment schedule; otherwise, continue to make payments as planned. If your final payment is not made by the due date, you could risk your booking being canceled for non-payment.
CAN I RESCHEDULE MY TRIP / TOUR?
This will vary for each individual trip/tour scenario. It’s best to contact your Travel Consultant directly for more information about the options available in your specific situation.
WHAT CAN I DO TO AVOID GETTING SICK?
Coronavirus disease is primarily spread person-to-person between people who are in close contact (within 6 feet) or through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It may be possible to contract the virus from a surface or object that has the virus on it, and then touching the face—but that is not believed to be the primary method of contraction. (Read more about how the virus spreads here.)
The CDC recommends that the best way to prevent illness is to minimize your exposure to COVID-19 with a few simple but effective measures, such as:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available.
(Read more about prevention and treatment here.)
WHAT HAPPENS IF I DO GET SICK?
At Home: If you develop a fever or symptoms of a respiratory illness (such as a cough or difficulty breathing), call ahead to a healthcare professional immediately and inform them of your symptoms. They will determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19 and will provide further instructions for preventing the spread of the virus to others.
During Vacation: If you get sick while on vacation, you should immediately contact your Tour Leader, go to the ship’s infirmary, or (if traveling independently) ask the hotel concierge or staff for information and directions to the best place to receive medical care. If you purchased travel insurance, you can also contact your insurance provider, as most carriers have a “concierge” line that can provide assistance and direct you toward the best place to receive care.
On Tour: If you experience symptoms while on a Witte tour, let your Group Leader and Tour Manager know immediately. Our on-site staff are there to support you and will help you get the care you need, regardless of the diagnosis.
If you are diagnosed with COVID-19 or experience symptoms that you suspect may be related, it is important that you take every measure to prevent the disease from spreading to other people around you. Read more about what to do if you are sick here.
MY HEALTH INSURANCE PLAN OFFERS MEDICAL BENEFITS WHILE TRAVELING. DO I STILL NEED TO PURCHASE TRAVEL INSURANCE?
If you are planning an international trip, we strongly recommend that you purchase travel insurance to protect your investment and to provide you with coverage overseas in the event of an accident or illness abroad. Even if you have health insurance back home that offers some benefits while traveling internationally, the coverage may not be enough. There are three types of travel insurance that you should consider if you are planning an international trip:
Trip Cancellation – Trip Cancellation insurance protects your financial investment in your trip, such as the cost of your flights, cruises, or other travel arrangements. Depending on the specifics of the policy, it may provide cancellation benefits if you must cancel due to a covered reason as defined by the policy. Some policies also provide a “Cancel for Any Reason” upgrade option, which provides more flexibility. Contact your Travel Consultant for policy details and for information about “Cancel for Any Reason” upgrade requirements.
Travel Health Insurance – When you are planning an international trip, it’s wise to be prepared in case of a medical emergency. Should you need medical care overseas, you may be required to pay out-of-pocket for services, which can be very expensive. If you have health insurance in the United States, find out if your plan will cover medical emergencies or expenses incurred while traveling abroad. Ask if your policy has any exclusions for preexisting conditions, and whether your policy will make payments to hospitals directly. If your health insurance coverage is not adequate, consider buying a supplemental travel insurance policy with medical benefits.
Medical Evacuation – Medical Evacuation insurance is especially important if you are traveling to a remote area or to a place where healthcare may not be up to U.S. standards. If you get sick or injured while traveling, medical evacuation coverage will pay for emergency transportation to a high-quality hospital.
(Read more about the CDC’s recommendations related to travel insurance here.)
CDC – Advice for Travelers: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/traveler-information-center
CDC – (COVID-19) Travel FAQs: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/faqs.html
WHO – (COVID-19) Advice for the Public: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public
WHO – (COVID-19) Travel Advice: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/travel-advice
WHO – Updated recommendations for international traffic in relation to the COVID-19 outbreak: https://www.who.int/ith/2019-nCoV_advice_for_international_traffic-rev/en/
Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by Johns Hopkins CSSE: https://gisanddata.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6