article

Coronavirus update

Andy Tucker
By Andy Tucker
General Manager
25th March 2020 (updated 27th July 2020)
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Covid-19: Keeping you Safe on Naturetrek Holidays

 

As we emerge from lockdown and begin to move towards operating our holidays once again, 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!

Will my tour go ahead as planned?

After the government announcements of 3rd July, we are now expecting most of our tour programme in the UK and Europe to operate as planned. 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 Cyprus, which is included but not yet admitting British tourists, so please do double check with us before booking any non-refundable travel. 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 five quick points of reassurance and clarification:

  • Please be assured that if we ultimately have to cancel a tour due to FCO Travel Advice, we will refund you or offer to transfer you to a different departure (although the ‘flight’ part of the refund may come later if the airline in question is slow to refund us).
  • 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.
  • In a few cases, where we have not yet ticketed any flights or incurred any other expense on your behalf aside from administrational expenses, we are offering a free transfer of monies paid to a future booking ahead of our decision to cancel the tour. At the moment, this applies only to long haul (non-European) departures in August and September and we will contact you if this applies to your tour.
  • In other cases, before lockdown, we purchased flights and other services on a non-refundable basis for a number of tours in the late summer and onwards. We see three potential scenarios here, as follows. 
    1) If the airline cancels those flights that we purchased, we will be refunded and we will in turn be able to refund those booked on the tour, transfer deposits to next year or to an alternative tour, or issue credit notes.
    2) If flights operate, but we have to cancel our tour due to Government advice, then we will again refund, transfer or issue credit notes. We will have a fight with the airline to get our money back – a fight that’s likely to be unsuccessful. Sadly this is one of the difficulties of being a tour operator at the moment.
    3) If flights/ferries/trains go ahead and we’re able to operate our tour, but you are disinclined to travel, then our booking conditions would apply, and any refund of deposits will have to be explored through the route of travel insurance.
  • 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 well over a thousand transfers and refunds for cancelled tours and we are working methodically through them in the order of the departure date of the tour. The work is made more laborious by the fact that we are all working from home. Currently, we are processing refunds for cancelled tours that were due to depart in late June, and we will shortly move on to tours that were due to depart in July. Please bear with us! When your refund has been organised, you’ll receive an email from us.


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.

Travel insurance – Covid-19 cover now available!

By the end of March, most insurance providers were specifically excluding from their policies’ cover any claim relating to Coronavirus (COVID-19), or any mutation of the disease, when renewing or issuing new policies. However, we are delighted to announce that new Covid-19 travel insurance cover will be included in a new policy offered by our recommended insurer, Campbell Irvine, from the first week of July 2020. The policy will provide Covid-19 cover for cancellation prior to travel, for curtailment of your trip and medical expenses whilst overseas. Any of our clients who have purchased a Campbell Irvine Direct policy after 17th March 2020 will be contacted by Campbell Irvine with the offer of changing the policy to include the new Covid-19 cover. This is excellent news for those wanting to book holidays overseas in the future and also a relief for those of us operating the tours!

Adaptations on Naturetrek Day Trips

  • Group transport is not provided on our Day Trips this summer, and if required group members will need to use their own vehicles to move short distances between sites.
  • Please bring your own lunch. On a couple of trips there may be the option to pre-book a takeaway pub lunch, or similar, in which case we will contact you with options beforehand.
  • Please bring plenty of water, snacks, hand sanitiser, sun cream, tissues, a sun hat, your own face mask (if you wish to wear one – this will not be compulsory as we will be out in the fresh air and wide open spaces throughout the day) along with anything else that you might need for the day.
  • Wherever possible, we will try to arrange comfort breaks during the day. More and more public toilets are opening now, but 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 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.
  • Whenever our leaders are preparing and handling food, utmost care will be taken with regard to hygiene. Meals 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), 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 group members not to share optics, field guides or any other equipment.

What to expect during air travel

For detailed guidance, please visit the FCO’s safer air travel guidance for passengers web page prior to departure. Do remember that this way of travel will be 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.

Book your next Naturetrek holiday for just £50!

Don’t forget, until the end of August, a deposit of just £50 secures your place on any future Naturetrek holiday, down from the usual 20%. To take advantage of this offer, you will need to book with us over the phone (01962 733051) with a debit or credit card to hand. With most Naturetrek staff currently working from home, we only have 3 telephone lines in operation, so if you struggle to get through at any time, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we will call you back as soon as possible afterwards. We hope that this will mean more of you may have a holiday to look forward to in the not so distant future!

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 at the bottom of the page are typical. 

Many of our clients are over 60 in age, either in a vulnerable group, with background health issues, or caring for elderly relatives. Our thoughts are with you all during this time, and with our NHS staff and emergency services, and with all those showing the caring side of humanity during this crisis. We’ll be here for you, privileged as ever to be asked to help with your wildlife travel plans, once this is all over.

With very best wishes from all the team here in Hampshire,
Andy Tucker 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)