Coronavirus threat looms, but Mooroopna travel agent says still safe to travel

By Charmayne Allison

Threats of a looming coronavirus pandemic may be swamping the headlines, but Mooroopna travel agent Lyn McNaught insists it's business as usual and urges local travellers not to get caught up in the panic.

“Every single one of my staff will be travelling in the next three to four months. I'm going to Africa. It's totally individual,” she said.

“Obviously, there are places in the world you don't want to go at the moment, like China.

“And travel insurance doesn't cover epidemics or pandemics, so it's a personal choice.

“But if airlines and tour companies are going to places, you can rest easy.”

After 50 years in the travel business, Ms McNaught is well-equipped to give this advice, having seen multiple threats come and go throughout her long career.

“We've had SARS, bird flu and so on. I know this coronavirus is a serious disease, but more people die of the flu every year,” she said.

“In all the years I've been in travel, airlines and tour companies have only stopped going to places twice — now, with China, and seven years ago when Egypt had a coup.”

Ms McNaught said some people had come into her travel agency worried about the risk of travelling.

“You're at risk wherever you go,” she said.

``You're at risk of being hit by a bus when you walk out your front door.”

Ms McNaught said airlines and cruise ships were being extremely co-operative in the midst of the outbreak.

“If you are booked to go to places like China, airlines are allowing you to put tickets in credit. They've also been fairly good with giving out refunds for travel over the next month,” she said.

“Cruise companies have also been amazing. A few cruises set for Asia have re-positioned themselves in Australia so people can still go.

“There are bargains galore to be had at the moment as far as cruising around Australia.”

While she had no doubt airlines, tour companies and travel agencies were taking a hit, Ms McNaught said it was difficult to quantify the collateral damage.

“We don't know how many customers we're not getting in because of the virus,” she said.

“This is our busy season. And while we haven't been that quiet, the longer this goes on, the more people panic.”

Travellers are currently warned to exercise a high degree of caution when travelling to destinations such as Indonesia, Hong Kong, Thailand and Japan due to the virus.

“One person rang up asking whether Singapore was safe,” Ms McNaught said.

“From my point of view, Singapore is one of the cleanest, safest places in the world.

“But if you still don't feel comfortable about going overseas, remember there are a lot of good local places you can travel to.”

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