What happens when your holiday is threatened by a bushfire or other natural disaster?
This thought hit home recently when my mum was trying to organise a family get-away for early February in Victoria’s high country.
“That’s well and good,” I told her. “But the reality is, if it happens to coincide with a severe to code red day, I am not going anywhere near a tree!”
That got me thinking – what do you do in this situation? Would we get a refund? And what about those who are already on holiday when severe weather hits?
Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires of 2009 and Queensland’s tragic floods of 2011 brought home the reality of Mother Nature’s fury.
Although the chances of being caught in such events are slim, you need to know what to do – and what your rights are if you need to cancel accommodation.
Victoria’s Country Fire Authority website has safety tips for travellers. This includes information on how to check fire danger ratings for areas you are travelling to. You can also download an app for the Victorian bushfires information line.
Check out the CFA’s travellers’ checklist website for more information. Tourism Victoria also now has a page of bushfire safety resources for business operators, which includes a downloadable brochure – Staying in high risk bushfire areas. Safety tips for visitors.
Western Australia is Australia’s largest state, with a range of weather conditions. At times, it can experience not just bushfires, but also floods and cyclones. You can find safety information on the Fire and Emergency Services Authority website
The Bureau of Meteorology also has some goods tips on surviving a cyclone, with links to other state-based websites.
The other side of the coin is what to do if you have booked accommodation and dangerous weather conditions are looming.
Tourism Victoria has produced crisis management information for tourism operators, which covers this issue. The following information is from the ‘Crisis Essentials – Crisis Management for Tourism Businesses’ handbook:
If your business is not operational or is inaccessible due to road closures or explicit government warnings due to safety concerns then you may have no
other alternative but to cancel bookings.
In this scenario, both you and the customer are released from the contract and the customer is entitled to a refund of any deposit paid, less any expenses reasonably incurred by you.
Even if your business is open and transport routes are clear after an incident, it is inevitable that some pre-booked clients will decide to cancel their visit,
rather than postpone. In this case the contract is still valid and your cancellation policy can be applied.
The best solution in both of these circumstances is to talk to the customer to see if you can negotiate something to suit you both. For example, hold the
deposit over to be used at a different time.
To me, it seems the most sensible thing to do is to ask about the operator’s terms and conditions at the time of booking.
Have you had your family holiday affected by the weather?