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Coronavirus: senior couple get Italy tour refund after Global News report

Seniors fear Italy flight, senior tour company denies flexibility
WATCH ABOVE: A Paris, Ont., couple who spent $10,000 on an escorted trip to Italy says it’s out the full amount of the travel. This happened despite the fact that Italy has recorded nearly 4,000 cases of COVID-19 and the Canadian government is recommending against traveling to parts of the country. Sean O’Shea reports. (March 5)

A Paris, Ont., man is relieved after a Global News story resulted in a sizable refund for travel he couldn’t take because of the coronavirus epidemic.

Larry Smith’s travel provider had a change of heart and agreed to a refund and credit for $10,000 for a planned trip to Italy this month.

Smith contacted Global News after Senior Discovery Tours of Toronto refused to pay back any of the money he spent on a two-week trip to Italy with his partner.

At the time, the Canadian government recommended against unnecessary travel to northern Italy but the warning did not apply to the rest of the country. Smith and his partner were travelling to Rome and Sicily.

COVID-19: Italy on lockdown as number of COVID-19 cases surges
COVID-19: Italy on lockdown as number of COVID-19 cases surges

At age 79, Smith said he did not feel safe making the trip to Italy, nor did his partner, who is 78.

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“We agreed it wasn’t worth the risk,” Smith told Global News in an interview.

“It’s irresponsible to ask older people to go to a hot spot,” he added.

READ MORE: WHO declares novel coronavirus disease a pandemic

Senior Discovery Tours originally told Global News there was nothing the company could do.

“All services for Larry Smith’s tour have been prepaid. Because the virus is not prevalent in Sicily, no hotels, suppliers or our airlines are providing any refunds for cancellations and therefore we are unable to recoup any funds with which to provide refunds,” wrote Danny Shea, president of Senior Discovery Tours.

But two days after the Global News story, Smith heard a different story from the company.

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Senior Discovery Tours went from refusing Smith and his partner for any form of reimbursement — to a combined full refund and credit towards any future trip.

1 Grand Princess passenger tests positive for coronavirus following quarantine at CFB Trenton
1 Grand Princess passenger tests positive for coronavirus following quarantine at CFB Trenton

“They offered me a 50 per cent refund in cash, the other form in credit for future travel,” said Smith.

The tour operator, which caters exclusively to seniors, also put out a general statement on its website announcing it would amend its refund policy as it relates to other passengers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If you are a client of Senior Discovery Tours and you don’t feel safe travelling during this time or you feel that your health might be at risk, please contact one of our customer service representatives,” the statement reads.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: B.C. confirms 7 new COVID-19 cases, 2 of them health-care workers

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“The last thing we want is for our travellers to feel stressful when they should be enjoying their holiday and travel experience,” Shay added.

Smith said the company’s reversal and phone call was appreciated.

“They couldn’t have been more apologetic, couldn’t have been a nicer phone call,” said Smith. “They’ve gone far above and beyond to what I’d ever ask for.”

“None of this would have happened without the help of Global News,” Smith said.

— With files from Justina Barsoum