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How coronavirus is affecting local travelers, travel industry
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Kate and Matt Lovell of Gainesville, pictured at the airport in Vienna, Austria, awoke there Thursday, March 12, to news of a travel ban from Europe. Photo courtesy the Lovells.

Kate and Matt Lovell of Gainesville woke up in Austria to news of a 30-day ban on travel to the U.S. from Europe by foreigners.

They’re OK to travel home, getting an assurance from their airline that “they’re not canceling flights,” Kate said. 

Still, on returning to the U.S., “we will have to go through one of the major cities that are going to be testing for the coronavirus,” she said.

It’s a lot to process for the couple trying to enjoy a European vacation.

Thursday morning they “woke up to 112 text messages that were like ‘Mayday! Mayday!’” Kate said.

She then learned what Americans had heard Wednesday night from President Trump about the 30-day ban, which has drawn strong reactions across the globe, angering allies and bewildering some public health officials who doubt its effectiveness in slowing the U.S. outbreak.

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President Donald Trump speaks in an address to the nation from the Oval Office at the White House about the coronavirus Wednesday, March, 11, 2020, in Washington. (Doug Mills/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

Trump announced that all travel and movement of cargo into the United States from Europe, except from Britain, would be halted — though that statement was quickly walked back.

U.S. officials said the restrictions would apply to people, not goods — and not to U.S. citizens and their immediate family members. 

The announcement also caused more stock market plummeting.

The health threat, which continues to cause closures and cancellations across America, certainly has Erica Carr, the Lovells’ travel adviser, with bookitbox Travel, on guard.

Half her bookings are trips to Europe, with a handful of clients due to depart for the continent in April and May.

“Obviously, my concern is just taking care of my clients and doing everything I can to refund any money that we can and just making (their experience) as easy and stress-free on them as I possibly can,” she said.

“I’ve put a hold on taking new clients for a short amount of time because my pure focus right now is my existing clients.”

She has one booking for Italy, one of the hardest-hit nations, that’s being postponed “to a later date, so it’s undetermined when they’ll go,” Carr said.

Janette Williams of Williams Holiday Travel in West Hall said the coronavirus has “impacted the travel business, with people canceling, but the good part of it is if you have a tour or airline ticket and you do want to cancel, they’re not charging you change fees. … So, people are not going to be losing their money.”

“It’s disappointing … but your health and safety comes first.”

Williams has a trip planned to Japan herself, but she said she’s OK if she has to put it off.

“Japan is still going to be there,” she said.

She believes the travel industry will be rocky “until they get this (disease) under control,” and she’s confident that’ll happen in time and business will return to normal.

“People are going to travel,” Williams said.

The Associated Press contributed.

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