Olympic fans are holding their breath that this summer’s Olympiad will take place on schedule. A lot is at stake – tickets have been purchased and paid for, as well as airfare and accommodations. If the games are cancelled, it will have a huge impact on all Olympic stakeholders.
But fans might be hit the hardest with nonrefundable fees.
The IOC has made the bold proclamation that the Games will go on, though that remains to be seen. As the Coronavirus continues its roller coaster ride around the world, no one knows where and when it will stop. The Olympic flame lighting ceremony has been impacted and numerous qualifying events have been canceled. The possibility of an Olympic cancellation is still on the horizon.
A recent poll of my Olympic friends and fanatics, found most have their airfare, accommodations and tickets purchased to date are already paid for. They booked a hotel or a flight as soon as the opportunity came up last year. Now these fans might pay a huge price for being first to book their Olympic adventure.
If you have tried to make room reservations in Tokyo between July 19 – August 10 on any major hotel/accommodation search engine, almost all listings want non-refundable payment in full at the time the reservation is made. Even "adults only" hotels are now popping up on Expedia to provide rooms during the Olympics and they too want advance payment!
It is an understandable policy to get money up front for a gigantic event like the Olympics to protect your hotel. However, if the games are cancelled and no one comes, will hotel refunds be made?
Many die-hard fans have purchased and paid for hotel rooms with hefty price tags. Most of these bookings are non-refundable. Recently Airbnb signed a sponsorship deal with the IOC beginning with the Tokyo Olympics. CNN now reports that Airbnb is not giving refunds for current cancellations on prepaid reservations for events like the recently cancelled SXSW Conference in Austin, Texas. As an Olympic sponsor will they step up now and let their guests know what will happen in case of an Olympic cancellation?
Their competitor Expedia.com is only answering cancellation requests on a case by case basis and has not yet come up with a policy to deal with current Coronavirus cancellations.
If neither of these companies will give money back on non-refundable rooms now, willthey be likely to do so if TOKYO 2020 is cancelled?
Currently all major airlines have invoked a Coronavirus cancellation protection scheme, though none gives you your money back. If you purchased a ticket recently you fall under the new rules, if not, you might be in trouble. For those purchases made at the first of March, the airlines will waive all change fees (most of these are between $150.00 and $200.00) though you will be subject to any fare increase when you rebook. If you cancel, they won’t charge you a fee but will hold your money until you decide to reapply it and rebook your ticket within a year. After that time frame you will lose it. Many of my Olympic friends purchased their tickets last summer as the air space became available to get the best flights. Would the airlines be as generous in refunding money or letting people use the credit for future flights if Tokyo 2020 is cancelled?
Finally come the tickets! Olympic tickets are a sizable investment. The average fan I know will spend over $6,000.00 USD per person minimum to attend various Olympic events. With opening ceremony tickets at a high of $2700.00 USD and closing ceremony at a max of $2200.00 USD, just these two high profile events can increase your ticket budget ever so quick.
What are the guarantees on Olympic tickets? A call to Cosport said they would take direction from the Tokyo Organizing Committee if that were to happen. All decisions would be made by TOCOG. They "assume" full refunds would be made, though there is no set procedure or timetable in place.
If the games were cancelled, I would hope refunds would be forthcoming, especially since VISA is an Olympic sponsor and that is supposedly the only way to pay for Olympic tickets. There is no official word on what would happen in a full-scale cancellation. With all that is going on in the world - ticket buyers deserve an answer now.
Those who have purchased tickets through brokers might have a difficult time getting their money back, depending on those individual company policies.
Zika took its toll on Rio 2016 scaring away many fans and the Coronavirus will make its mark on TOKYO 2020. Fans who have not finalized plans for Tokyo will be hesitant to do so at this stage, especially without more detailed reassurances. Even if the games are held, this is a major blow to TOKYO 2020.
TOKYO 2020 and the IOC need to not just reassure fans that the Games will take place, they need to make some bold moves to ensure Olympic fans’ monetary investments will be protected in case the Games don’t happen. Answers are needed now to instill confidence in these Games.
Everen T. Brown
Everen T. Brown is an Olympic Superfan with 15 Olympiads under his belt! His passion for writing, 360-degree panoramic photography and the Games make for colorful Olympic commentary and insight.