Israeli Vacationers Face Unclear Corona Cancellation Policies
Most hotels, however, will reimburse families for last-minute cancellations over a child’s COVID-19 diagnosis
Despite the government’s insistence on maintaining caution amid the fear of a potential renewed spread of coronavirus, the encouraging figures of recent days, showing a steady decline in infections and deaths, have led many Israelis to schedule vacations and holiday excursions for the upcoming Jewish holiday of Passover.
Decision-makers, eager to jumpstart the nation’s economy and conscious of people’s burning desire to get out after a full year of off-again, on-again lockdowns, are looking to make these trips as problem-free as possible.
Yet while special ordinances aimed at ensuring visitors’ safety and health have been issued, the matter of retributions and refunds has been left unresolved.
“Usually, canceling a hotel reservation with under five days left would entail a cancellation fee and possibly no refunds at all. But because of the special circumstances, new rules allow you to cancel anytime, with certain caveats,” a representative of Eshet Tours, a leading Israeli travel agency, told The Media Line.
Fattal Hotels, another company in the tourism industry, told The Media Line that “it depends on the case. There is no uniform policy for everyone and no money-back guarantee.”
“Hotels are a private business. Everyone decides their own policies.”
According to the new guidelines published by the Israeli government, people who have received both Pfizer shots, and are therefore considered fully vaccinated against the virus, can book and stay at hotels.
Similarly, those presenting a Certificate of Recovery, meaning they have already contracted and recuperated from the virus, can also enter Israeli hotels.
Over 4 million out of a population of 9 million have been fully inoculated for coronavirus in Israel. An additional 780,000 have recovered from the virus.
As for children under the age of 16, who cannot receive the Pfizer jab as of yet, they will be required to present a negative coronavirus test, dated at most 48 hours before their arrival at their vacation destination.
“Because of that requirement, we have allowed families to cancel their reservation even at the last minute, and still receive a full refund,” the Eshet Tours representative said. “You can’t expect somebody to be turned away by their hotel because their child is sick and still pay a full fee.”
“Of course, you have to show the positive test to get your money back.”
Isrotel, another major hotel chain, will also allow people to cancel free of charge because of a positive COVID-19 test.
“It’s not government rules, no. But that’s our decision and I believe most hotels in Israel have a similar policy,” a representative for the company said.
Passover, a full seven-day holiday and a highlight of the Jewish calendar, has traditionally been an ideal time for Israeli travelers and families. The spring break is usually exploited by those looking to fly abroad for a weeklong trip, but this year will largely be celebrated within the confines of the Jewish state.
“There are thousands of people looking for rooms,” the Isrotel rep told The Media Line. “It’s not ideal, and there are difficulties and challenges in operating the hotels, dining rooms, pools, etc. according to health protocols. But it’s better than last year when we were dead.”
Still, even the ability to receive a full refund, which only some resorts afford their patrons, does not assuage some potential vacationers’ concerns.
“We’re taking a risk; we know that,” Elad, who has already booked a room for his family at a hotel in Eilat for next week, told The Media Line.
“Our kids have returned to school, albeit in a very limited capacity. So we know there is a chance they’ll test positive and we’ll have to cancel. What are we supposed to do then, a day before Passover, with no holiday meal planned and the entire family in quarantine?”