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 Caroline Mongrain, Marketing & PR Manager of World Expeditions Travel Group:
Question #1 | Are you (re)focusing or redirecting tours to specific destinations, geographic regions, or types of experience/travel due to COVID-19?
Caroline Mongrain/World Expeditions | As we are all taking a step back, our primary focus is on expanding our domestic programs so that travellers can explore closer to home. The World Expeditions Travel Group comprises various local brands around the globe. The different divisions will be lifelines to recovery among their respective domestic markets in the first instance.
In Canada, our Great Canadian Trails brand offers some truly unique walking and cycling trips, which will become much more of a focus for North American travellers. We’re revising all trips to adjust where necessary, and developing exciting new itineraries. We just launched our new app for our self-guided adventures in Canada, designed to enhance the traveller’s experience on the trail.
The supported formula allows travellers to cycle, paddle, or hike without the burden of carrying their luggage, whether on a guided or supported self-guided holiday. Great Canadian Trails’ trip ranges from a challenging hike in Yukon on the Tombstone Range, to more leisurely multiday bike rides in Quebec’s Laurentian on Le P’tit Train du Nord rail trail, with luggage transfers from inns to inns.
Adventure travellers are likely to be amongst the first to be ready to explore again. We expect a renewed interest in active outdoor experiences, particularly remote and wilderness trips. And Canada is such a beautiful country to do so!
#2 | What health and safety protocols have you implemented for tours, in light of COVID-19?
CM | All of our adventures will be following strict safety protocols. The nature of walking and cycling trips makes social distancing easier to observe, whether people travel with their partner, family or friend on a self-guided trip, or within their private group, or by joining a small-group guided departure. Increased safety measures further minimize the risks on our trips.
The new COVID-19 specific practices include new screening procedures for client’s pre-departure, rules to ensure all passengers travelling in group vehicles wear masks, deep cleaning of vehicles and equipment, and new regulations governing food preparation.
Additional measures are being adopted by our accommodations. Our partners are strictly adhering to their regional policies and, in many instances, going beyond to provide hygienic and safe environments.
The below information is sent to all of our travellers:
General hygiene in the hotel:
- Where it is not possible to maintain a 2-meters distance, we ask that you wear a mask. Some will require you and the hosts/staff to wear a mask in common areas except when seated for dining.
- You will be encouraged to regularly hand wash / sanitize throughout your stay.
- High touch areas will be cleaned/disinfected regularly through the day with a log kept.
- Rooms will be thoroughly sanitized between guests. Unless you request it, your room will not be cleaned every day. For longer stays when staff enter your room, they will wear a mask and take all precautions to maintain strict hygiene practices. Additional measures include the disposal of cleaning wipes and gloves after each room has been cleaned, hand sanitizing between cleans to avoid cross-contamination.
- Standing areas in bars will not be available.
- Drinks and snacks will be individual and not shared.
- These will be served to you and not provided as a buffet.
- Two sittings may be required in the dining room to ensure social distancing is maintained.
- There will be no shared items such as table spices or butter pots.
- You are required to wear a face mask on public and private transports.
Visiting Tourist Sites:
- Most tourist sites will require advance purchase tickets for a set date and time.
- As numbers are limited, it is advisable to book well in advance.
- Seating will be limited to comply with local social distancing guidelines.
As a traveller, we recommend you also take your own precautions at this time, including using a face mask when social distancing is difficult, regular handwashing of at least 20 seconds, avoiding touching your face, and ensuring that you respect social distancing requirements.
#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?
CM | If, at any time during their trip, a traveller experiences any symptoms of the COVID-19, we ask that they leave their tour and get tested. Our local team will be able to assist in directing them to the closest testing center and medical facilities.
#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?
CM | Book with confidence by taking advantage of World Expeditions and Great Canadian Trails lower and flexible deposits. Book your 2021 trip and only pay a $100 flexible deposit. No change fees.* (*Valid on most World Expeditions and Great Canadian Trails adventures. Terms and conditions apply.)
#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?
CM | With most travellers postponing their trip from this year to 2021, some tours are already filling up. For destinations with limited availability, it might not be possible to book closer to the travel date.
By its nature, adventure travel means that changes to itineraries due to unforeseen natural or human-made disasters do happen, and we have well-developed protocols in place to deal with these events. The transparency as always been at the core of our emergency response protocol. When clients are informed about how we are monitoring unfolding situations closely and acting accordingly, they feel confident that every action that needs to be taken for their safety will be made.
The current crisis, of course, is unprecedented and presents unique challenges. But the mission of the company remains the same; assisting travellers in exploring beautiful natural landscapes, actively, and in the best and safest conditions.
#6 | Given the recent COVID-19-driven complications surrounding return, credit and cancellation policies, how are you addressing concerns around presale deposits for 2021/2022 in the event of a pandemic resurgence?
CM | Should they be prevented to travel as scheduled because of border restrictions, they will be able to postpone their travel date.
#7 | What would be, if any, the advantage a consumer would have to book a trip now?
CM | By booking now they are guaranteed a place on their preferred tour and date. Many travellers had to postpone their trip originally scheduled in 2020, therefore our 2021 dates are filling up quickly.
#8 | If you have additional comments regarding domestic or international travel and/or World Expedition’s planned approach, feel free to add.
CM | Great Canadian Trails is proud to support different networks of trails around the country. Included in all tour packages which use The Great Trail is a $50 donation to support the pan-Canadian project, the Bruce Trail to the Bruce Trail Conservancy, and the East Coast Trail to the East Coast Trail Association. Volunteers maintain most trails, and with the lockdown at the beginning of the season, it is particularly challenging for the organizations to ensure the trails are safe to open to visitors—their work is invaluable for all outdoor enthusiasts. ***