As health experts grapple with the spread of the Zika virus, worried Canadian travellers — including those who are not concerned about pregnancy — are wondering what options they have to change their plans.
"I don't know if everybody really knows everything there is about it or maybe even the officials don't know but, yeah, it is concerning," said Colin Waye, a senior from Sydney, N.S., who flew to the Dominican Republic last week with his wife, Mary.
They booked the trip — their first southern vacation — through Sunwing. Before departure, they said they would have changed plans if given the choice.
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They tried to change their destination or get a credit for future travel, but were denied by Sunwing, who said the couple must either take the trip as scheduled or lose their money.
With new countries being added to the list of infected areas and questions about whether there is a connection between Zika and Guillain-Barré syndrome and paralysis in adults, companies that offer vacation travel are having to adapt quickly.
"Sunwing's policy continues to evolve as we receive more information provided by WHO and the Government of Canada," said Jacqueline Grossman, Sunwing Vacations's senior marketing director.
The federal government and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control are recommending pregnant women and those who are thinking about becoming pregnant consider postponing travel to Zika-infected areas.
Sunwing is offering refunds to pregnant women and their companions
Different companies, different responses
Transat Holidays will change destinations or the travel date for pregnant women and travelling companions staying in the same room, but require a medical certificate confirming the pregnancy.
The company says cancellation is subject to terms and conditions, but money on file can be kept as a credit for future reservations.
WestJet has the most liberal options for its customers. It allows all travellers to infected areas to change or cancel their trips without a doctor's note. They are not refunding cash, but offering credit for future travel.
Air Canada Vacations and Air Canada require a note from a health professional for pregnant women who had planned to travel to an infected area. Those women and their travelling companions who wish to change their date of travel or destination can do so for free. Its website says they can also request a refund without penalty.
Sunquest is offering pregnant women, women who may become pregnant and their companions a full credit in future travel vouchers as long as a doctor's note is provided.
Sunwing said it is monitoring the situation carefully and should the travel advice be extended to other people, it will re-evaluate its policy accordingly.
No rush to change travel
Those who work with the travel industry say there isn't a rush of people asking to change their plans — at this point.
"If there were large numbers I would be hearing more and having people call," said Bob Sime, who runs a company that provides marketing advice to travel companies.
Sime said he would expect a large number of calls if the federal government upgrades its warning and tells people not to travel to infected areas.
The CAA's Gary Howard told CBC News much the same, saying they've received inquiries but not many.
"To be honest we don't have many women who are pregnant travelling to the south at this time of year, especially if they're along in their pregnancy," he said.
Howard is urging people to keep concerns about Zika in perspective.
"While the danger to pregnant women is significant, for everyone else this is a virus. Only one in five actually see the symptoms," he said.
Sime points out it's not as simple as the airline or the tour company saying, "We can give you your money back."
"Once somebody books, the money leaves the travel agent and goes to the tour company or the airline and then goes to the hotel down there because they're all required to pay in advance," he said.
All of the travel companies contacted by CBC News say concerned travellers should talk to their doctor. They also say despite their policies, travellers should contact them so that each inquiry can be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.