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Coronavirus update

Andy Tucker
By Andy Tucker
General Manager
Updated: 9th October 2020
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Covid-19: Will my tour go ahead as planned?

 

We plan to operate as many of our tours to the UK and Europe as we possibly can this autumn and winter, although overseas options are currently limited. If you are booked on a tour to one of these countries, please send in your final balance by the due date. Note that there are one or two oddities on the list, for example New Zealand, which is exempt from the FCDO's (previously FCO's) advice against ‘all but essential’ international travel, but is not yet admitting British tourists, so please do double check with us before booking any non-refundable travel. Other countries on this list are open to UK citizens, but require you to have a negative Covid PCR test result dated within 72 hours of your departure from the UK. Please do take your time to read the full FCDO advice for your chosen destination carefully, and keep checking back frequently. If you are booked on a tour to a country not on the list, we will write to you before your balance is due to update you on the situation. We are aiming to make final decisions on whether to operate each tour around 3 - 4 weeks or so prior to departure at the absolute latest, though this will vary according to the destination in question, flights, specific ground arrangements and the developing situation both here in the UK and overseas. During this period, please feel free to contact us if you have an urgent query but, otherwise, we ask you to please be patient, bearing in mind these four quick points of reassurance and clarification:

  • Please be assured that if we ultimately have to cancel a tour due to FCDO Travel Advice, we will offer you a full refund you or the option to transfer to a different departure. This also applies in the event that a country is taken off the FCDO’s ‘exempt list’ at short notice. If the government imposes new quarantine measures and takes the country in which you are travelling off the ‘exempt list’ whilst your tour is underway, we will complete our tour as planned (unless the FCDO also advised for UK citizens to return home immediately, in which case we would organise your repatriation), and you would be required to quarantine on your return home.
  • If you choose to cancel your holiday before we officially cancel a tour, our booking conditions will apply, although you may be able to claim back our cancellation charge from your insurer.
  • The rules surrounding local lockdowns are complicated and seem to vary from region to region. If you live in a local lockdown area and identify through careful study of your local rules that you are clearly and unequivocally prevented from travelling on a multi-day Naturetrek holiday which is otherwise operating, we would ask you first to approach your travel insurer. If your claim is unsuccessful, we would be looking to refund you in full, bar any non-refundable expense that we have made on your behalf (which is likely to be limited to the cost of a flight). Day trips would be fully refundable. We hope this provides some clarity and reassurance.
  • If your tour has been cancelled and you are waiting for a refund, please don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten about you! We have a major task on our hands processing thousands of transfers and refunds for cancelled tours so far this year, and we are working methodically through them in the order of the departure date of the tour. Currently, we are processing refunds for cancelled tours that were due to depart in October and November. Please bear with us! When your refund has been organised, you’ll receive an email from us.

 

Keeping you safe on holiday

On the tours that we are able to operate, we will be adopting a series of important measures to keep our clients safe. Your health and safety is our top priority, and so we are pleased to publish these guidelines to provide insight on what we will be doing on every Naturetrek tour to keep you safe. At all times we will be closely monitoring and adopting government advice and guidelines, and industry best practice, and regularly updating this policy accordingly. Of course, the vast majority of our holidays visit remote areas, well away from crowds of people, and once we have negotiated airports and got out of the cities, we rarely see many people at all!

 

Adaptations on Naturetrek Day Trips

  • Group transport is not provided on our Day Trips, and if required group members will need to use their own vehicles to move short distances between sites.
  • Please bring your own lunch unless stated in your trip joining instructions/information. 
  • Please bring plenty of water plus a thermos of hot drink if you wish, snacks, hand sanitiser, tissues, your own face mask (this will not be compulsory whilst we are out in the fresh air and wide open spaces throughout much of the day but may be required on occasion e.g. inside visitor centres, using public toilets) along with anything else that you might need for the day. Suitable footwear (walking shoes or walking boots) will be essential, along with sensible layers, waterproofs and warm hats/gloves, sunhat/suncream etc. depending on the weather forecast. Binoculars are a must, and a telescope will be useful if you have one. You will need to be able to carry everything yourself.
  • Wherever possible, we will try to arrange comfort breaks during the day. More and more public toilets are now open again; please be stringent with hygiene when using public facilities.
  • We ask you to respect minimum social distancing AT ALL TIMES (currently 2m where possible between households at the time of writing, but could be updated at any time). To help ensure this, we ask our tour leaders and group members not to share optics, field guides or any other equipment.

 

Adaptations on multi-day Naturetrek Tours

  • We have been working closely with our accommodation providers around the world, and you will see many adaptations in place as a result, including amended arrival and check-out processes, enhanced cleaning measures, and changes to restaurant set ups. We will adhere to government regulations and guidance in our destination at all times, as well as respecting local etiquette.
  • When travelling by 9-seater minibus, we will take a maximum of 5 guests per van, meaning that you can always have an empty seat next to you. You will be asked to keep to the same seat during the course of each day and to then rotate the following day. Your leader will clean the vehicle thoroughly at the end of each day (as well as sanitising door handles etc. during the course of the day). Social distancing requirements at the time of travel may mean that you will be required to wear a face covering during minibus travel.
  • Instead of the usual Naturetrek picnics, we will be arranging packed lunches, prepared with the strictest of hygiene measures. Also, some lunches might be at restaurants, and these will be eaten outside wherever possible. If we eat inside, we will ensure that there is sufficient space between place settings.
  • Hand sanitiser will be available throughout all of our tours (though please ensure you bring a good supply yourself too, of at least 65% alcohol content), and we will enable regular hand-washing during the course of the day wherever possible. 
  • Unfortunately, we will not be able to provide room shares on our tours for the moment, although two friends who book together will still be able to share a room. 
  • We ask you to respect minimum social distancing AT ALL TIMES (currently 2m where possible between households at the time of writing, but could be updated at any time). To help ensure this, we ask our tour leaders and group members not to share optics, field guides or any other equipment.

Prior to departure…

Prior to travel, we will let you know of any specific requirements for travel or in your destination country. We will also let you know of expected screening requirements at arrival and departure airports, and of any specific health requirements relating to Covid-19 in your destination. If you, or someone that you have been in close contact with, is displaying symptoms of Covid-19, or if you receive an alert from NHS Track and Trace, you MUST NOT TRAVEL under any circumstances. This applies in the 14 days prior to departure. Please contact your Operations Manager as soon as possible to discuss your booking.

Symptoms of Covid-19 are:

  • A high temperature
  • A new, continuous cough
  • A loss of, or change to, your sense of smell or taste

What to expect during air travel

For detailed guidance, please visit the FCDO’s safer air travel guidance for passengers web page prior to departure. Do remember that this way of travel is new to everyone! If you are unsure about anything or feel uneasy, just ask your tour leader or a member of the airport staff. They are there to help.


After your day trip or tour

As an additional precautionary measure we are operating our own Track & Trace system for all of our day trips and multi-day tours. If you have a Covid-19 test within 14 days of your trip, and the result is positive, please let us know immediately, so that we can inform the other members of the group, asking them to self-isolate. 

A final word…

During this period of uncertainty, future holidays might be further from our minds than usual, but thoughts of our network of wonderful guides and lodge/hotel owners around the world, spell-binding wildlife, stunning scenery, and friendships made while on tour will continue to keep our spirits up. Far from ceasing communication online and in print, we continue to work as normal and stay in touch with all of you who would like to hear from us, hoping that your day might be brightened with a beautiful image, or an exciting tale from a tour. Do check our Twitter feedInstagram and Facebook page, for our latest news, views and images, and do please sign up to our e-news from the link on our homepage here if you do not already receive it. 

While we have been working our way through the cancelled tours, we have been touched by so many messages of solidarity and support from Naturetrek clients and friends. We thank you all so much for your kind and supportive words at this time. The examples below are typical. 

With very best wishes from all the team here in Hampshire,
Andy Tucker (General Manager) and the Naturetrek Team

 

I would like to thank you most sincerely for the way Naturetrek has, and is, dealing with the Covid pandemic. The way that Naturetrek has returned our payments without any argument suggests that Naturetrek is a first class company. Being over 80 in my case I felt that we should request our payments back (one never knows!) and this was accepted without comment, though we hope to going on Naturetrek holidays for some years to come.

The contrast with other holiday makers, where constant disputes take place between airlines, travel companies, agencies and holiday insurance companies who try to retrospectively adjust their terms and conditions is quite staggering. "Which" and the daily papers are full of complaints about the underhand and "buck passing" tactics of the holiday industry, where innocent holiday makers are left thousands of pounds out of pocket.

Again many thanks for your efforts,

EG (booked to travel to Spain and Italy)

 

I cannot tell you how much respect I have for you and your company in allowing me to transfer my deposit to the other tours in this time of great upheaval. I did not expect this kindness and am immeasurably grateful. I consider you my tour company of choice despite living in Southern California and will continue to do so. I hope I will be able to reschedule the Peru trip when feasible and greatly hope things have settled by May 2021 for my next scheduled European tours with you.

Sincerely yours and with much appreciation,

GP (booked to travel to Peru)

 

I would like to thank Naturetrek as a company for the automatic refund of the payment for this year’s trip. I was expecting Naturetrek to hold on to the payment as early settlement for the new booking in order to help company cashflow. At a time of such upheaval within the travel industry as well as to all of our personal lives I think it is an indication of the professionalism and integrity of the company to be returning client money even though we have transferred our booking. I do hope it is also an indication of Naturetrek’s financial stability and resilience to withstand the current situation. We have high regard for the company and for each and every employee we have dealt with, and will certainly try and do a little to help the recovery by booking future trips with you. (Any excuse!)

I would be grateful if you would pass these comments on to your senior team.

IM (booked to travel to Spitsbergen)

 

I have been thinking a lot about you and all your colleagues at Naturetrek in these worrying and very challenging times. You have all worked so hard over so many years to give me and my fellow travellers truly wonderful experiences around the world. I will always be grateful to you all for giving me these holidays of a lifetime. Naturetrek is a great company full of friendly, enthusiastic, and ever-helpful people. You have helped support people, flora and fauna, and their environments worldwide. I’m looking forward to the holidays I’ve booked with Naturetrek and hope to have many more in the future.

RH

 

Thank you for your email and the refund that we have received. We would like to say thank you to all of you at Naturetrek for the way you have handled the cancellation of our holiday (originally China and then rebooked to California!). All the way through, you have kept us informed, given us reasonable timescales, reassured us that we would receive our money and dealt with us in such a calm and friendly manner considering what an awful situation this is for all businesses. We have travelled with Naturetrek for quite a few years now. Occasionally there may have been things that didn't go to plan but we have always thoroughly enjoyed our trips. This experience has certainly left us with a sense that we are dealing with a trustworthy company that cares about being fair to its customers.

RM (booked to travel to China and California)

 

Thank you very much for all the work that you and others have done in clawing back our money for the cancelled trip... needless to say, we appreciate it very much!  Naturetrek is clearly a first-rate firm in every way, and we are already compiling the Naturetrek tours we want to take just as soon as it is once again safe to travel… we are your customers for the duration.

All the very best to you all… stay safe,

DM (booked to travel to India)

 

Many thanks for the refund for our cancelled holiday.  I’d also like to take this opportunity to say thank you for the way you, and Naturetrek, have handled this very difficult situation. There has not been a single point at which we have been worried that you would you would not look after us or treat us fairly and with all the reports in the press that cannot be said of all other travel agents.  It gives us even more confidence in Naturetrek as a company and we very much hope we will be able to travel with you in the future (hopefully this trip). In the meantime we’d like to say THANK YOU and ask that you pass our thanks and best wishes to everyone at Naturetrek.

Best wishes,

JD and AC (booked to travel to Italy)

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