Jonathan May, our Health and Safety Officer, answers some of your questions about safe travel in the world of COVID-19, and details some of the steps we’ve taken logistically to get tours operating in a safe, sustainable and enjoyable manner.
What has been the biggest challenge in adapting tour practices to meet new COVID-19 safety standards?
I have to say we have been very impressed with how all our suppliers and staff have risen to meet the challenges presented by this situation. They’ve had to adapt what were already stringent health and safety processes to incorporate COVID-19 safety protocols.
However I would say the most challenging aspect of this process has been learning to quickly adapt to local rule changes regarding, for example, group sizes or operating capacities of venues.
Having said that, this aspect has become more settled as time has gone on, and systems have been adapted to smoothly cope with any changes.
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What are the main in-tour adaptations that have been made?
Before a tour is given the ‘green light’ we risk assess every step of the customer journey, with every supplier completing a COVID safety form in advance of the tour. This form ensures that they have all the appropriate safety practices in place.
Practices we require include everything from ensuring social distancing can be adhered to and deep cleaning regimes, to having a system in place to deal with any customers who fall ill on the tour.
In addition, all suppliers must also sign up to our Supplier Agreed Minimum Requirements to ensure standards are consistently maintained.
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How has in-tour capacity been adapted?
While tour capacity has not been directly effected, we do operate at a reduced capacity with regards to coaches to ensure social distancing can be maintained at all times. In addition, many attractions will be operating at a reduced capacity for the same reason.
However, from the feedback we have received, this does not seem to have negatively effected the overall customer experience.
Different countries and regions will have varying rules regarding numbers of group permitted to gather and we always ensure that we adhere to the local rules and guidelines of each destination. However it is important to point out that some rules, such as the “rule of 6”, do not affect coach transport.
How is the in-tour experience different?
The overall tour experience itself has not significantly changed, aside from the requirement to wear a face mask at times, ensure social distancing and hand hygiene, which by now has practically become second nature to us all.
However with less people travelling at this time, popular attractions that would normally be busy with visitors are now quieter and offer visitors the opportunity to experience these attractions like never before.
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Has the overall enjoyment been compromised as a result of the new safety measures?
We have worked very closely with our Product Department and in-destination suppliers to ensure the safety of our customers, while making every effort to not compromise the enjoyable experience of the tour.
Judging by the overwhelming positive feedback we have received from customers who have travelled with us since the restart of our tours, we have succeeded. Some customers even reported enjoying the post-lockdown tours more, as they found many popular attractions to be a lot less busy than they had expected.
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