Chinese online travel platform Trip.com Group, is extending a free cancellation policy for people traveling in or to China until Feb. 29 for those affected by the current coronavirus outbreak, it said on Sunday.

Why it matters: Tourism in China has been hit hard by the epidemic, as thousands of travelers have already been affected by travel restrictions.

  • Trip.com, China’s largest online travel platform, has received millions of requests for booking cancellations or changes, 10 times more than the usual rate, a spokesperson for the company told TechNode on Monday.

Details: Trip.com, or Ctrip as it is known in China, has waived fees normally charged for canceling or changing bookings for hotels, tours, and airplane and train tickets. Customers who have booked hotels or transportation in China until Feb. 29 can cancel or amend their booking at no extra cost if the booking was made before Jan. 28.

  • On Jan. 24, Ctrip began its “Safeguard Cancellation Guarantee” program allowing refunds for travel plans made by Jan. 24, provided travel or check-in times fell before Feb. 8.
  • The Nasdaq-listed platform invited hotels to participate in a free cancellation program on Jan. 23, giving full refunds to guests who wants to cancel their plans during those dates. More than 400,000 hotels have signed up as of Monday, according to the spokesperson.
  • International hotel chains like Hilton, Shangri-La, Intercontinental Hotel Group, Marriott, Hyatt, and Accor are also participating in the scheme.
  • Air travel booked via Trip.com can also be cancelled without charges from the platform during the same dates. Most Chinese airlines are giving full refunds, as well as some international companies, according to a company statement.
  • Train tickets are fully refundable, following guidance from the railway authorities, the company said.

Context: The current novel coronavirus strain which was first reported in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in Hubei province, brought the country to a standstill during one of its busiest travel seasons.

  • In addition to the 56 million people living under lockdown in Hubei province, the streets of many Chinese cities are mostly empty.
  • On Jan. 24, China’s Ministry of Tourism ordered the halt of all tourist group package sales.
  • Many international airlines have cancelled flights to China. On Jan. 31, the US State Department raised the travel warning to the highest possible alert, urging its citizens to avoid travel to the country.
  • Trip.com launched a RMB 200 million ($28.5 million) fund to support the waived fees.
  • A separate “Global Disaster Relief Plan” was implemented on Jan. 26 allowing customers who booked an international group or private tours scheduled to fall between Jan. 27 and Feb. 29 to receive a full refund.
  • Ctrip is rumored to be looking at a secondary listing in Hong Kong. Its share prices on Nasdaq fell 13% in January.

Eliza Gkritsi

Eliza is TechNode's community listening reporter at the Shanghai office. She acts as a link between the editorial team and TechNode Squared members. She previously worked as a reporter for WikiTribune...

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