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Columbus Travel Agency Optimistic Despite Pandemic: 'People Are Getting Cabin Fever'


Despite the coronavirus pandemic preventing many Americans from traveling this year, the owner of a Grandview travel agency is optimistic things will turn around in 2021. That's in part because of new travel insurance specifically focused on COVID-19.

“People are getting cabin fever,” says Rob Elking, owner of Grandview Travel. “They want to travel, but they want to do it safely.”

Elking says one of the insurers offering the new policy is Medjet, which provides transportation home if a traveler finds out they have COVID-19 while on vacation. Travelers pay an annual membership fee that costs about $900.

“Piece of mind to our clients,” Elking says. “If you’re at a certain destination and become positive for COVID-19, they will bring you back on a private aircraft, back to your city, so you can be with your doctors and at your local hospital.”

Elking says the pandemic has taken away close to 90% of his business in 2020. He says international travel is still restricted to Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Asia and Africa, but tourists are welcome again in some countries south of the U.S.

“Mexico right now is one of the bright spots for a beach vacation because no negative COVID test is required to enter the country,” Elking says. “And resorts are only at about 50% occupancy, so easy to social distance at these resorts and they’re being very careful with their safety protocols.”

Elking says that the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) helped keep his business afloat after the shutdown began in March. However, he did eventually have to furlough some of his employees.

“We’re hoping that Congress comes together again, maybe after the election, and they offer relief to people in the hospitality industry, including travel agencies as well as hotels, and airlines and the motorcoach industry,” Elking says.

Elking says airlines are doing their part to attract business by eliminating change fees.

“Travel suppliers have relaxed all their penalties,” Elking says. “They’re encouraging consumers to place a deposit, which would either be fully refundable, or they can move that deposit to another travel date.”

Elking says he is also hoepful that a coronavirus vaccine could be available next year, so travel enthusiasts can return to their passion.

“The pandemic is driving the bus and we’re passengers,” Elking says.

Debbie Holmes has worked at WOSU News since 2009. She has hosted All Things Considered, since May 2021. Prior to that she was the host of Morning Edition and a reporter.