In the light of official and media information surfacing about COVID-19 (pneumonia caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2), we would like to present our position regarding the matter.
(4th of March 2020)
Firstly, bearing full responsibility, we would like to inform you that SOIT members have been paying particular attention to the safety of the people participating in their travels as well as those responsible for travel organisation.
Secondly, at present, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) have yet to issue recommendations indicating the need to reduce tourism flows or discouraging tourists from visiting the countries with ongoing coronavirus transmission. As reported on 29 February 2020, WHO does not recommend any travel or trade restrictions based on the currently available information. WHO is working closely with global experts, governments and partners in order to rapidly expand the scientific knowledge about the new virus, to track the spread and virulence of the virus, and to advise countries and the global community on health measures and prevention of the spread of this outbreak.
Thirdly, with the exception of a few strictly identified areas*, Polish authorities have not informed of any necessary restrictions as regards travelling abroad. When issuing travel warnings related to epidemiological risks, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MSZ) has relied on the travel advice of the Chief Sanitary Inspector (GIS) based on ECDC and WHO data. However, GIS advice is clearly of an advisory nature and does not impose any specific behaviour. The phrase they have used is as follows: “GIS does not recommend travelling (…).” Furthermore, in the case of certain destinations, this recommendation does not explicitly apply to the entire country, but rather to selected regions.
Fourthly, considering the above, we would like to inform you that, with regard to package travel contracts within the meaning of the Package Travel and Related Tourist Services Act (consolidated text Dz. U. – Journal of Laws of 2019 sec. 548 as amended), in the light of the information available to us, in principle there are no grounds for cost-free cancellation (except for the places listed above in footnote no. 1). Withdrawal from a contract before a package travel starts without having to pay a withdrawal fee pursuant to Article 47(4) of the Package Travel and Related Tourist Services Act of 24 November 2017 is possible if unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances significantly affect the package travel or the transport of people at the point of destination or in its immediate vicinity. Otherwise, a cost-free withdrawal is not applicable under this particular provision. According to the information received from our members, such circumstances do not occur in the case of package travels organised by them.
In particular, we would like to point out that, based on official advice we receive from e.g. the Italian regional authorities, the provision of services in valleys of the Alps is uninterrupted. Hotels, restaurants and ski lifts operate as usual. Furthermore, the National Consultant on Communicable Diseases has reported that there are no reasons to give up this type of ski travels. Similarly, SOIT members who are currently implementing incentive projects or are travelling in the South-East Asia region monitor the situation in particular destinations on an ongoing basis, and provide information to the Association and other member agencies. The vast majority of incentive travels to South East Asia (excluding China, Iran and South Korea) are on schedule.
We would like to emphasise that this assessment and practice are consistent with the assessment and practice of industry organisations and entrepreneurs from other EU countries.
Fifthly, due to the lack of possibility of cost-free cancellation within the indicated scope, customer’s withdrawal from a contract in these circumstances is possible on terms and conditions specified in the contract (cancellation), which provide for the need to bear contractual costs of the cancellation.
However, if you intend to make such a decision, we recommend that you always consult your tour operator in advance (also if you intend to postpone the travel).
Sixthly, we would like to inform you that we are constantly monitoring the situation in the places associated with our travels, and that members of our organisation will take appropriate actions in good faith according to the existing circumstances. For the time being, we only recommend influenza vaccinations due to the high activity of seasonal influenza, as per relevant national and international recommendations.
Seventhly, SOIT recommends that travel decisions should be based on facts originating from official and trusted sources. We notice that surfacing media reports do not always reflect the actual safety of travel.
We hope that the above explanations will dispel any doubts you may have in connection with the travels organised by members of our organisation.
of the Polish Association of Incentive Travel Organisers
*Apart from the territory of Hubei, China, in the case of which MSZ advises against any travel to the province of Hubei, and 11 municipalities in Italy quarantined by the Italian authorities (in the Lombardy region: Codogno, Castiglione d’Adda, Casalpusterlengo, Fombio, Maleo, Somaglia, Bertonico, Terranova dei Passerini, Castelgerundo, San Fiorano; in the Veneto region: Vo’ Euganeo (Padua)), in the case of which MSZ informs that no travel is possible, the Ministry does not determine any necessary travel restrictions. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also issued warnings in relation to the growing epidemiological threat of SARS-CoV-2, and recommends avoiding unnecessary travel (including tourist travels) throughout Iran, particularly the city of Qom. MSZ advises against unnecessary travel to the city of Daegu and to the Cheongdo County in the North Gyeongsang Province where the vast majority of 2019-nCoV coronavirus infections in South Korea have occurred.