This post has been updated here.
I don’t have to tell you about the natural disasters that struck Japan, devastating the country.
I love Japan and am heartbroken to see this beautiful country go through this horrible event. Our hearts go out to everyone effected by this disaster.
Thankfully, Friendly Planet Travel does not have any travelers in the country at this moment. However, we do have a scheduled departure date for our Japan Panorama tour on April 19, which is presently on hold.
For the moment, we have been informed that tickets issued for travel to Japan can be cancelled without penalty only through March 20. After that date, issued tickets can be cancelled, but for a penalty of $100 per person.
Since we have not been able to reach our land agents in Japan yet, we can’t determine if land penalties will be waived for April departures. We believe, however, that all of our suppliers will be lenient under the circumstances.
It is out of the question to even begin to determine the extent of the destruction in Japan at this early hour. In fact, a second earthquake occurred just a short while ago in the Nagano area, and there are likely to be aftershocks in the hours and days ahead.
In order to determine if travel in April will even be possible, we will need to assess the viability of the buildings in the cities where our travelers would stay. In the best case scenario, this will take weeks. The safety of our travelers is always our number one priority.
We will need to wait a few days until we make contact with our representatives on the ground in Japan. From there we’ll determine how cancellations of tours for April will be handled in order to make a final decision about our departure dates.
If you’re one of the travelers booked on our April 19 Japan Panorama tour, we are contacting you right now to give you all the information we have. Once the options are known, we will send them to you without delay. And be assured that no matter what option you choose, we will work with you to ensure you get a trip you are happy with.
The tsunami that hit Japan triggered tsunami alerts in other parts of the world where we do have Friendly Planet Travelers, including the Galapagos Islands and Costa Rica. I spoke with our representatives in the Galapagos Islands and they they told me everyone is safe and has been moved to higher ground until the alert expires. Costa Rica was issued a “green alert,” which is considered not threatening.
In events such as these, it’s a good time to remind you of the importance of buying travel insurance. If your trip is cancelled, travel insurance typically covers up to the total trip cost. But there are some caveats.
In this case, travel insurance will cover the trips that are cancelled right now, that is, for departures through March 20. For the moment, airlines are waiving cancellation fees only through March 20 and insurance companies are following suit. It is to be seen how this disaster evolves. If it is not possible to conduct tourism as usual, that March 20 date will be moved back, and the coverage will also be extended.
Please be patient. The situation is still evolving, and it will take a few days to understand the full impact of the earthquake and tsunami. But be assured that we’re working 24/7 and monitoring the situation closely.
I will continue to post updates on the blog, Facebook, and Twitter as news develops. Most importantly, keep everyone in Japan in your thoughts. We will be creating a way you can help the people of Japan. I’ll tell you more about that in a future blog post.