Coronavirus is like a huge stick in your bicycle wheels – it’s sudden, stressful, painful, and causes nerve cell death. The biggest novel influencer of 2020, COVID-19, has launched a global challenge and we have to deal with it, no matter what. We can all see how harmful the virus is for our economies no matter where you are in the world. Without any doubt, the recovery is going to be hard, but it’ll be even more difficult for those who are somehow connected with tourism, hospitality, and restaurants.

According to Sky News research, nearly half of the world’s population is under movement restrictions every single day. A major part of Western Europe is under lockdown; people are urged to work from their homes and there are those who are lucky enough to have paid vacation to use, and there are those who got fired in the worst way. Plans are getting ruined like the tumbling of a house of cards, people are experiencing massive disruption to their hopes and dreams. 

As a result, people are facing the double trouble of canceling their long-awaited holidays and working to get their money back. Isolation and closed borders are enforced steps to reduce the virus’ spread and diminish the pressure on hospitals. The same scheme should be invoked in booking services because they are the second target of the corona gun, at a point of collapse. Frankly speaking, Booking.com is a vivid example of how not to do things in times of crisis.

“I am like a ball in the ancient game of tennis”

Booking.com is one of the leading booking services across the world, providing people with a stack of places to stay during your business trip or vacation. But here is one tiny discrepancy: how can the number one international travel service, according to SimilarWeb, offer such low support during this force majeure situation? My wife and I were planning to have a wonderful vacation in the Maldives. We never expected to run into a problem like this. 

The hotel had been booked for March 23-31st, but due to the coronavirus pandemic and closed borders, the situation has only raised tension as every second ticks by. I canceled my flight tickets and due to force majeure rules, Turkish Airlines immediately provided us with all the necessary support and promised to return 100% of the tickets’ cost in 10 banking days. It’s fair, considering the fact that assimilating to the situation is going to need some time. 

On March 16th, I wrote an email to Booking.com asking to cancel and reschedule my reservation. It was necessary since canceling or transferring the reservation through the site would cost me 100 percent of the booking. I called Booking.com’s support to talk with the operator and make sure that my appeal was being considered and to see when they’d be contacting me. My call didn’t actually go anywhere. 

Because of this, I wrote another email, trying to elicit a response. There has still been no reply to my contact and their line is constantly breaking. The hotel says they haven’t got any technical rights to cancel or postpone the trip; only Booking.com can do that. Meanwhile, on the site, there are only two options: to cancel with 100 percent charge or to talk with the hotel and pay only a 50 percent charge. Neither of these is going to please anyone.

I’m like a ball in the ancient game of tennis being played between the hotel and Booking.com. I’m not the only one who has come up against such a complicated task. People all around the world are trying to find a solution, sharing all their information and lack of progress with each other, trying to piece together the puzzle.

Old Fashoned Tennis Game. Image credit: pinterest.com

“Wait on the line…”

Force majeure situations are, by their very nature unpredictable and can reach us faster then you can read Taumatawhakatangi­hangakoauauotamatea­turipukakapikimaunga­horonukupokaiwhen­uakitanatahu – the hill near Porangahau in New Zealand. At the same time, there’s a dam effect building up here. You know that you’re dealing with millions of people and bookings every year; logically nothing is stable in the world and there should be a “Plan B”, like the emergency evacuation plan in every mall.

Booking.com should have been able to predict such catastrophic situations for the tourism industry. However, taking a deep breath for 10 seconds can stabilize people’s mental condition, and to my mind, it’s just as natural as breathing. Booking.com needs time to regroup and solve all their clients’ problems; to take a breath. As it stands, without any information, it looks like they’re disrespecting their clients and trying to make some easy money. 

Other brands are no exception, and they should have a think and establish a communication process with their users in case of future natural or unnatural disasters. A crisis or a pandemic is like the black stripe on a zebra, it’s sure to be followed by a white stripe and then reappear. However, the reputation and people’s attitude towards these brands which will remain.