Full refunds for Sanya beach resort bookings amid COVID-19 outbreak
Travel operators and airlines are providing full refunds for tourists who have booked tours to Sanya, Hainan Province, after a spike in COVID-19 confirmed cases at the beach resort.
About 80,000 tourists, including some from Shanghai, are stranded in the coastal city after it launched a lockdown from 6am Saturday to contain the outbreak caused by the highly transmissible BA.5.1.3 Omicron sub-variant.
Online travel operator Tongcheng-eLong is offering full refunds to those who have secured hotel orders in Sanya through August 14 if they cancel their orders.
For air tickets, the travel operator said it is cooperating with airlines companies over refunds or change issues.
Shanghai-based online travel operator Trip.com said it is closely following the COVID-19 development in Sanya, and its free refund or change policy targeting hotel bookers runs through August 14.
Automatic refund channels have been opened, it said.
Huazhu Group, a domestic hospitality giant, has promised free cancellation or change of accommodation dates for those who have booked accommodation in Sanya through August 11.
A Shanghai tourist who preferred not to be named took a flight to Sanya with her family on August 3 for a five-day trip.
"I didn't expect that I would be on a flight to Shanghai at 2pm on August 5 as I was just taking a stroll amid a palm forest and appreciating the enchanting beach scenery at 8:30am the same day," she said.
The family made the tough decision to return home due to the uncertainties of the deteriorating situation with 1,600 yuan (US$236.6) of flight change fees.
They found long queues at the check-in counters at the airport in Sanya.
Major domestic airlines have also been offering free ticket refunds or change for flights to or from Sanya.
Shanghai-based China Eastern, Spring and Juneyao Airlines, as well as China Southern and Air China, have announced that tickets scheduled for the end of August can be fully refunded or changed to other dates.
Meanwhile, ticket prices are soaring back to full-prices for flights from Sanya to Shanghai.
An economy-class ticket of Spring Airlines, the biggest budget carrier in China, for Saturday was sold at more than 3,000 yuan, while the cost of a business-class ticket of China Southern hiked to over 15,000 yuan.
Usually, passengers can enjoy discounted prices for flight tickets. For example, an economy-class ticket of a Spring Airlines flight from Sanya to Shanghai can be below 1,000 yuan.
Juneyao said it has deployed its flagship Boeing 787 Dreamliner for the route between Sanya and Shanghai's Hongqiao airport to meet the demands of travelers to return. The private carrier is operating two daily flights between Shanghai and Sanya.
The Sanya government has announced despite the citywide lockdown, people can leave Sanya with two negative reports of PCR test in 48 hours.
Tourists can also check into the hotel they booked with negative PCR test results and use air or rail tickets to enter Sanya. They should provide the negative reports each time they go out or enter.
The Shanghai-Sanya route was the hottest domestic flight route back in June after Shanghai emerged from its long COVID-19 lockdown. Most airlines substituted their single-aisle jetliners with wide-body aircraft to operate the route.