By Outpost Travel Media
As we make our way into the final quarter to 2020 and continue to work to flatten the global-COVID curve, we’d like to thank all those who did their part (in particular, the incredible healthcare workers, worldwide!), and to express sincerest condolences to all who lost loved ones. Hopefully the world will heal, and a vaccine to permanently combat this dreadful disease will arrive.
At Outpost, we believe good travel is essential to human inter-connectedness and to a more peaceful world. As travel restrictions evolve or lessen and we reconsider how to travel, we asked a few top travel companies how the COVID pandemic has reshaped their operations, and where they stand now. Here’s Don Forster, General Manager, Latin America & the Polar Regions, Goway Travel.
Question #1 | Are you (re)focussing or redirecting tours to specific destinations, geographic regions, or types of experience/travel due to COVID-19?
Don Forster/Goway | At this stage, as most of the world remains closed to travel, there is no one country or region we are focusing on. Having said that, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands are open, and we are letting people know that. Whether they choose to travel remains a personal choice, and we see for the most part, people are still waiting for things (vaccine) to get better. As things begin to open, with a more solid direction, our focus will be private-guided tours and experiences—travel in your own bubble, if you will.
#2 | What, if any, new health and safety protocols have you implemented for tours, in light of COVID-19?
DF | We will focus on private services, which have a built “social distancing” to them. Vehicles that carried 10 people will now only carry five, etc. All drives and guides will be continually tested. Sanitization of vehicles will be daily, as will a daily supply of hand sanitizers and masks be made available. Goway will insist travelers travel with their own mask. We know most hotels and operators in Latin America have or are working towards gaining the world travel certification for all things COVID.
#3 | Does your protocol include a new plan for consumers who get sick when travelling with you? What aid can consumers expect if they become ill?
DF | Goway includes a local travelers-assistance in Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil—this is not travel insurance—but [it] does cover some basic needs like doctor house-calls, and some minor coverage for medical attention. This has been upgraded in [the] amount of coverage for any bookings made this year, and expanded to cover any COVID-related illness when in-country.
For all regions, regardless of passenger coverage, we would first abide by and follow any government regulations in respect to this. Each country is different, but generally, if a passenger is found to have symptoms, they would be asked to isolate in a hotel. Should health matters worsen, we would coordinate with local authorities, the passengers and family in arranging the appropriate next steps.
#4 | Are you offering any (great) travel deals (discounts, special offers, deals to iconic destinations) to consumers at present, or planning on doing so in future?
DF | Yes—across all Goway destinations we have a range of offers, from the above [question #3] travelers assistance, to price-reduced vacations. Pay 2020 rates and travel in 2021. As things start to truly open, we envisage more offers, to get people back in the air and traveling again.
#5 | As the COVID-19 situation is still (somewhat) unpredictable, what do you say to consumers who are “doing their research now” for future travel, but unsure if it’s smart to buy at the present time?
DF | We encourage people to plan—it [the COVID crisis] will end. Booking now for 2021 travel is a good choice, as often you can get this year‘s rates for next year’s travel, plus other incentives. If things change and travel can‘t be taken due to COVID, Goway will happily move travel dates—as we have been doing for people who had travel plans this year—to a future date, with no charge.
Cancellation is an option, though of course, we would rather not see that happen. If a passenger does choose to cancel due to COVID reasons, normally full refunds are available, but there are exceptions based on the type of trip booked. (Read more about Goway’s current guidelines and operations.)
#6 | What would be, if any, the advantage a consumer would have to book a trip now with Goway?
DF | 2020 rates for 2021 [travel]—deals in the market, flexibility in changing dates, if COVID prevents travel; not to be confused with changing/cancelling for other reasons!
#7 | If you have additional comments regarding domestic or international travel and/or Goway’s planned approach, feel free to add them.
DF | Plan and book—[the COVID crisis] will end, and general consensus as of [this] writing is a vaccine is coming by years end. This, of course, won’t have an immediate impact, but a vaccine = confidence in life getting back to normal.
As such, once people see the vaccine in distribution, we anticipate a fast response and our phones to begin ringing again, as people now confirm the plans they made. We don’t see people en masse traveling until late next year, but we do see the pent up demand being released early 2021—fingers crossed!