Tourism platforms help clients cope with virus-related downturn

Hu Min
China's pneumonia epidemic struck at what is traditionally peak season for the tourism industry. Faced with steep losses, travel companies receive aid from leading platforms.
Hu Min

Travel operators in China are waiving transaction commissions and service fees to help businesses on their platforms withstand the blow dealt by the novel coronavirus pneumonia outbreak.

Shanghai-based travel operator Trip.com has launched a one billion yuan (US$140 million) partner support fund and 10 billion yuan in loans for businesses on its platform, and exempted promotional fees and transaction commissions for group-tour providers.

It will also return platform service fees from at least the past three months to its tourism partners, and 8,000 outlets of Trip.com nationwide will have three months of management fees waived to relieve pressure on their operations.

Alibaba's online travel unit Fliggy has announced that it would waive six months of platform service fees for its travel partners in Wuhan, Hubei Province, the epicenter of the outbreak, and three months of fees for partners in other areas.

A 12-month loan with a discounted interest rate will be available to businesses on the platform, and commission fees will be exempted for hotels providing free accommodation to medical workers in Wuhan, Fliggy said.

Shanghai Spring Tour has launched online training for its staff on how to tackle emergencies and crises, and provide quality destination services to tourists.

Online travel operator Tongcheng is providing web-based tours of domestic destinations via virtual-reality technologies and video.

The Spring Festival is traditionally peak season for Chinese travelers, but the country's tourism industry encountered a heavy setback from the suspension of tours.

Customer service staff at travel agencies were busy handling refund applications from tourists through the holiday and industry workers face an unpredictable period of sluggishness.

"The pneumonia epidemic poses a big challenge for the tourism industry, and its impact on the industry is far more severe than SARS as it happened during the travel boom of Spring Festival," said Zhou Weihong, deputy general manager of Shanghai Spring Tour.

The travel agency has refunded 250,000 tourists due to the outbreak, and is estimating a financial loss of 410 million yuan during the festival month.

As of Friday, about 235,500 Shanghai tourists had cancelled trips to domestic and overseas destinations.

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