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October 2021    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 36, No. 10   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Did COVID-19 Cost You Money in Lost Reservations?

dive businesses keep money with the weakest excuses

from the October, 2021 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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COVID-19 has been a disaster for the dive travel business. In the spring of 2020, we wondered how any dive resorts and liveaboards in remote parts of the world would survive because running a dive operation is not cheap. Shortly before he died, Max Benjamin told us that his Walindi Plantation Resort in PNG employed 118 people. That was in January 2020, before COVID struck. That's a lot of wages to pay with no foreign visitors arriving.

With no international travel, most dive resorts and liveaboards closed down, if temporarily, pending better times. Many considered their long-term reputations and rolled over reservations for future years; some even issued refunds. But some just kept the deposits, even payments, and a few of these continued to operate for locals, despite divers from other countries prohibited from visiting.

We quickly began hearing tales of woe. A few months ago, we asked our readers if they'd lost any money from canceled bookings either because they could not enter the country or they were reluctant to travel.

Many who wrote us preferred to remain anonymous (and even wished to keep the offending dive operation anonymous). Some still hoped to get their money back one day, and others wanted to remain friends even if they were confident they had been stiffed. So, we'll honor their anonymity as we tell their stories.

The Dive Store as Travel Agent

In the U.S., many dive store operators are part-time travel wholesale booking agents, putting together group trips for their customers; they collect deposits, then forward all or part to their destination, and make all arrangements. And for some divers, that's caused problems when it comes to figuring out where their missing money went.

Sean Brady booked a trip with Deep Stop Scuba (Syracuse, NY) to Chuuk (Truk) Lagoon from Newark at the cost of $5500 per person. After Truk was closed to foreign visitors, the trip was canceled, and he was able to recover all but the original deposits of $500 per each of four passengers, but he's still chasing it. He says his emails, Facebook messages, and phone calls have been ignored, although the U.S. dive store still appears to be in business. Where is that $2000?

Another reader lost her $1500 deposit to her dive store booking agent when her trip to Cuba in May 2021 was canceled. Eight others also lost their deposits, with the only explanation being that it was non-refundable. "I felt shocked about losing their money on canceled trips, and I would love to be able to get a return for the deposit, but the reality is I have enjoyed trips with this dive shop. I probably will not take any more trips with them again after that one as I still have a bitter taste in my mouth."...

"Many who wrote us preferred to remain anonymous."

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