After coronavirus cancellation, why won’t my tour operator refund my deposit?

By Christopher Elliott — Boston Globe correspondent, Updated April 1, 2020, 12:00 p.m.

Q. Last October, I booked a Pacific Northwest and California trip with Collette Tours. At that time, I paid $519, which included a $250 deposit and $269 for travel insurance. The tour is scheduled for May.

Then the coronavirus outbreak happened. Because of my age and health concerns, I decided to cancel the trip in early March. My deposit is supposed to be entirely refundable. I have called Collette several times to find out the status of my refund, which has not yet been credited to my card, and continue to get no positive results. I want the $250 deposit refunded. Can you help me?

PATRICIA FUJA, Naperville, Ill.

A. If your deposit is refundable, you should receive your $250 back quickly. The question is, how quickly?

You canceled in early March, which is when the rest of the world canceled its vacations. Collette Tours, like every other tour operator in the world, faced a catastrophic scenario. Everyone wanted their money back — now.

I think you should give any company a minimum of 30 days to process a refund under extraordinary circumstances like these. There really is no precedent for cancellations on this scale. It’s never happened before, not even after 9/11. I know because I wrote this same column after 9/11.

You’re lucky that you booked a tour with Collette. It’s one of a few tour operators issuing full money-back refunds, as opposed to travel vouchers, during the coronavirus outbreak. Some tour operators are returning money but charging fees to cover their losses, which they can do under their contract (which no one reads). But Collette is a straight shooter and didn’t do any of that.

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