SmarTours won't issue refund

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May 6, 2020
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In September 2019, my friend and I booked a trip to Bali and Hong Kong through SmarTours. My friend paid $3,300 and I paid $1,800 toward the trip. Our trip was scheduled for June 2020.

I'm 65 and my friend is diabetic, therefore having an underlying medical condition. Due to the coronavirus outbreak and guidance from the CDC, WHO and the Department of State, we decided to cancel our trip.

On March 9, 2020, we sent an email message to SmarTours cancelling our travel and requested our money be refunded. They advised us the money would be refunded minus a $1,000 penalty for cancellations up to 90 days prior to trip departure. In subsequent telephone conversations and emails we asked SmarTours to consider the extenuating circumstances of the pandemic and issue a full refund. They asked if we paid for travel insurance and suggested the $1,000 would be recoverable through the insurance. We had not purchased insurance. SmarTours responded that we would receive a refund, less the $1,000, within 6-8 weeks. Additionally, they informed us they were prioritizing getting travelers home who had been stranded on trips in other countries.

When my friend suggested that they consider providing a credit toward future travel if they could not refund the $1,000, SmarTours responded: "Due to the unique/customized nature of this tour, SmarTours has less flexibility but we are trying to see what can be done."

On April 30, approximately 8 weeks after our cancellation and not having received any refund, I contacted SmarTours. On May 1, 2020 we received an email message from SmarTours stating "Our offices are temporarily closed due to 'stay-at-home' mandates enacted by New York state, so certain accounting processes including assignment of credits and refunds will be on hold until our Accounting team is legally allowed to resume their in-office duties. I apologize for the delay but as soon as our office reopens (we are hoping this will be sometime in June, but we are not sure yet) we will be catching up on refunds. Please feel free to check in again in mid-June if you have not heard from us by then."

It appears that after our last conversation in March, SmarTours never initiated the process of refunding our money. Now we find it hard to believe that they are unable to work remotely and issue a refund.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
23,067
23,018
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New York
www.promalvacations.com
Did SmarTours eventually cancel the tour itself? We have published many articles about sitting back and waiting for a tour operator, airline or cruise ship to cancel so you would be able to be eligible for a refund. If you canceled in a panic before - you are subject to the cancellation fees that were in effect at the time you canceled. Anything they do now would be a goodwill gesture and unfortunately from tour companies, cruise lines, airlines - they just do not have the funds to refund every single client. This is similar to folks who canceled airline tickets before the airlines canceled the flights.
And it appears they aren't providing any refund at all, only credits for another trip.


Please read this story from March -
 
May 8, 2020
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Did SmarTours eventually cancel the tour itself? We have published many articles about sitting back and waiting for a tour operator, airline or cruise ship to cancel so you would be able to be eligible for a refund. If you canceled in a panic before - you are subject to the cancellation fees that were in effect at the time you canceled. Anything they do now would be a goodwill gesture and unfortunately from tour companies, cruise lines, airlines - they just do not have the funds to refund every single client. This is similar to folks who canceled airline tickets before the airlines canceled the flights.
And it appears they aren't providing any refund at all, only credits for another trip.


Please read this story from March -
Yes. I was informed on March 13th that Smartours canceled the trip for the entire tour group. Nadine and I were planning to travel together.
 
May 6, 2020
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Okay--thank you for your prompt response.

But I still don't really understand why we should pay a fee considering the pandemic and the many advisories against travel starting in early March.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
23,067
23,018
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
There has never been anything like this in the history of travel and these travel companies are fighting fir their lives to stay in business. Their terms age conditions that you agreed to when you booked are what they must go by for cancellations.

They simply can not afford to refund everyone who canceled before they canceled their trips. In fact they can’t even afford to refund the ones they legally have to.
 

Patina

Verified Member
Dec 22, 2015
1,912
3,507
113
Okay--thank you for your prompt response.

But I still don't really understand why we should pay a fee considering the pandemic and the many advisories against travel starting in early March.
Why? Because you cancelled prior to the tour company cancelling. No different than if you cancelled a flight prior to the airline cancelling the flight. The terms at the time of cancellation are what governs the agreement. You agreed to the term that if you cancel within 90 days of the trip, you would incur a $1000 penalty fee. This has nothing to do with being diabetic, etc. If there was not a pandemic but your friend had a diabetic episode keeping you from taking the trip in normal circumstances, would you expect the tour to refund you?