Travel industry braces for potential upset this holiday season due to Omicron variant

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WISCONSIN (CBS 58) -- The holiday travel season is bracing for what could be an upset. On Monday, Nov. 29, President Biden shut the U.S. border down to eight African countries because of a new Covid variant.

Earlier this month, the travel industry was beaming. The U.S. had eased Covid-related international travel restrictions. But Monday night, a different picture, causing anxiety for some travelers.

The new Covid variant Omicron popped up in South Africa last week. The U.S. now joins other countries banning foreign nationals from these eight African countries. 

If your trip there hasn't been canceled, analysts say don't cancel your flight, wait for the airline to do so.

"If your vendor, that tour operator, that cruise line, that airline is the one that does the canceling, you have much more negotiating room than if you decide to cancel before the tour, the cruise, the flight is canceled, said Rose Gray, Fox World Travel business relationship director.

Rose Gray advises clients get travel insurance, especially now, but read the entire contract. Some limit the reasons you can cancel. You want a contract that lets you cancel for any reason.

"You know we never thought that was important because everybody thought I'm only going to cancel for a covered reason. Well now if you feel uncomfortable or you don't feel certain about a trip, that's not a 'covered reason,' said Gray.

Analysts had been predicting a robust 2021 holiday travel season. That may still be the case for domestic travel.

"I think over the holidays we're gonna see people who have just waited so long to see friends and family that they got their vaccination," said Gray.

But due to the Omicron variant, overseas travel may slow down.

"Obviously this is a blow to us, the United States, because we were so glad that we could reciprocate and allow other nations to come to us, because we were being very protective on that front, and now we're preventing people from coming to the U.S.," said Gray.

Omicron's also been detected in several other countries.

Right now, Gray says Germany's December travel season is halted as they must shut down their Christmas markets due to Covid.

"Now this is the time of year if you're river cruising in Europe, you're doing it intentionally to go to the Christmas markets. So I've checked with every major river cruise company and with one exception, they are all giving you the opportunity to cancel and get a refund or cancel and book for 2022," said Gray.

If you're traveling internationally, you typically can't get a direct flight out of Mitchell, so an airport spokesperson isn't expecting to see much difference in traffic here right now.

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