Holidaymakers caught out by the northern beaches coronavirus outbreak and associated state border closures have been swapping accommodation bookings online.
Leesa Jammal started the “COVID restriction holiday swap Australia” group on Facebook last Sunday night and the membership grew to more than 2000 by the end of the week.
Group members are mostly swapping or selling bookings for camping sites or exchanging information about cancellations, but some are seeking to sell or swap bookings for hotels and holiday homes booked through HomeAway and Airbnb.
A post by Ms Jammal reminds members to make sure the venue will transfer the booking. If the booking is informally rather than formally swapped and the credit card is not updated, the person with the original booking could be liable for any damage or extra costs.
“It’s up to the person who’s made the booking to contact them and work it out – I’m not here to hold hands or help anyone do it,” Ms Jammal said.
While some group members have successfully transferred bookings, others have complained that caravan parks have cancelled their bookings without approval, leaving holidaymakers out of pocket for cancellation fees even though the site was rebooked.
Queensland has closed its border to people from Greater Sydney, but many Queenslanders were seeking to offload holidays in northern NSW for fear the border restrictions could tighten further.
Erin Turner, director of campaigns at consumer group Choice, said Australia consumer law offered protections when a product or service can’t be delivered but this was complex when there were government-mandated restrictions. The individual terms and conditions would always apply.
Ms Turner said consumers should ask for a refund in writing because sometimes accommodation providers would refuse to refund, then later change their mind. Consumers could escalate the matter to the fair trading department in their state if they felt they weren’t being treated fairly.
However, Ms Turner said consumers should be “cautious about cancelling too soon” because of uncertainty over COVID-19 unless there is a clear right to a refund in the terms and conditions.
“You may be better off delaying rather than proactively cancelling your flight or accommodation because you may have more options if the airline or accommodation provider cancels it rather than you,” Ms Turner said. “You could wait until closer to the day of your booking before cancelling or transferring the booking to a later date.”
Ms Turner said the terms and conditions would also determine whether you were allowed to transfer the booking to someone else and if any fees applied – and sometimes you “need to remind your airline, hotel or booking service of these clauses”.
Ms Jammal had been planning to visit family in the Blue Mountains for Christmas and then take her annual camping holiday in Forster-Tuncurry on the NSW mid-north coast. But Queensland’s border closure includes the Blue Mountains, so Ms Jammal stayed in Brisbane for Christmas and if border restrictions tighten further she will have to cancel the holiday as well.
She has organised a back-up option through the group but not for the same dates, so she is waiting until closer to the time. “As well as the worry of the two weeks quarantine, we don’t want to do anything wrong, obviously our safety comes first,” Ms Jammal said.
“But if [the border] stays open, and the doctors and authorities are saying that it’s fine to travel, then we will. We’re feeling hopeful that there will be something available for us.”
Source: Thanks smh.com