Our Coronavirus (Covid-19) Approach
With the emergence of coronavirus (Covid-19), and the necessary restrictions, it is understandable that this will have raised many questions and concerns regarding travel plans.
As your local specialist travel agent, we would like to take this opportunity to provide some reassurance and clarity. We have been closely monitoring the situation since it started to evolve in China in January. We receive up-to-date information on any changes to travel advice from the UK Foreign Office as well as from our travel partners with the benefit of their in-destination contacts. We are pleased to advise that in mid-March all clients overseas were safely brought back to the UK in good time. Those who were about to travel, in March & April, had their holidays cancelled. Of these clients many have postponed their planned trips until later in the year, or to 2021, and if this is not the case they are in the process of receiving a refund. There is the odd exception to this, and processes are definitely taking longer than normal, however we are in regular contact with all affected.
As of 3rd July the Department of Transport announced the countries on their ‘safe’ list – these are countries where the 14-day quarantine rules on arrival into England were relaxed (from the 10th July). This list has been changed and amended over time. At the moment it includes a number of European countries and those further afield such as Turkey, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Mauritius, Barbados, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, St Lucia and Australia. At the same time the blanket Foreign Office (FCO) ban, advising against all worldwide non-essential travel, was dropped on Saturday 4th July.
Do please note that there are, at the moment, some countries that are on the ‘safe’ list, and which the FCO says you can visit, which have restrictions in place for UK (and other) visitors. Amidst all this sort of confusion we are here to give advice and try to make sense of the different rulings.
We are here to support all our clients in helping you to make the best possible decisions for your travel plans. Everyone’s situation and circumstances are different so we always make recommendations on a case by case basis but we have outlined our general guidelines as to how we are managing the Covid-19 situation below.
Since mid-July a number of clients have been travelling on holiday and having a fabulous time in Italy and Greece. In the latter, villa holidays proved particularly popular and have continued on into September. We took the opportunity to visit the Sporades, with stays on Alonissos and Skiathos and you can read about the trip here. Not only did we have a great holiday on these wonderful islands, enjoying the beautiful beaches, fine food and superb diving, but we also saw, first hand, travel in a time of Covid-19. The journeys there and back, using planes and ferries, were all very smooth and reassuring, as was our whole time in Greece. It was clear that everyone was taking it seriously however at no stage did it impact on the holiday, barring the wearing of masks in all shops and interior space. Everything felt calm and reassuring which is the same message we have consistently got back from all our travelling clients.
It is clear that everyone involved in the tourism industry, including hoteliers, transport providers and airlines, are taking the necessary precautions very seriously and we do not doubt that this will be the case as more and more countries open up to visitors.
Information for if you have already made a booking with us.
What happens if the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises against all but essential travel to a country?
The FCO advice ‘against all but essential travel’ no longer applies to all destinations. If it does apply to your holiday destination then we will be in contact to discuss how this will impact your travel plans and evaluate your different options with you.
- If you are travelling to that country, but not for a few weeks or more we will keep you fully informed of the developments and ensure you are aware of key dates which may be relevant to decisions about your trip. This may mean postponing your trip to a later date.
- If your travel dates are imminent and you have booked a package holiday with us you are protected by the Package Travel Regulations. This means that, where we are able to, we can offer you alternative holidays.
If you wish to check the level of financial protection available for your booking with us, please do get in touch.
What happens if the FCO doesn’t specifically advise against travelling to a country?
The FCO blanket advice has been lifted for certain destinations. Travel companies will continue to operate trips to these countries wherever possible. If you have already booked your holiday and the FCO allows for travel to your destination but you have concerns about going, please do get in touch with us ASAP to discuss these concerns and seek reassurance. Everyone in the travel industry is striving to work together on your behalf during this uncertain period and we are already seeing companies increasing the flexibility of their cancellation policies in response.
Alternative options that may be possible include:
- Postponing your trip to a later date or even next year. In this situation, depending on the cost of the new arrangements, you may be required to pay additional costs or be due a refund, which we can talk to you about.
- Changing the destination of travel. Again, depending on the cost of the new arrangements, you may be required to pay additional costs or be due a refund of the difference, which we can set-out for you.
Cancelling your holiday.
If you decide to completely cancel your trip instead, this will be in accordance with the booking terms and conditions. Please be aware cancellation charges are likely to apply. If this is still your preferred option, we would suggest you contact your insurance company without delay to see whether you are able to recover any of these costs.
Further Advice for current bookings
Anyone due to travel should double check entry restrictions
If you are due to travel in the near future and have recently been to any of the countries which the FCO has restricted travel to, we advise that you check the entry requirements for the destination you are visiting to see if there are any specific restrictions in place.
Also, clients should be aware that health screening procedures have been put in place on arrival in many countries. The FCO advises that if you are travelling, you should comply with these measures.
Check your Travel Insurance
We always advise travelling with an appropriate insurance policy in place for your peace of mind. This is particularly relevant in the light of Covid-19. We will keep a check on the FCO advice right up to your date of travel to ensure there have been no last minute changes. Be aware that changes might invalidate your insurance cover so it is important to know the wording of your policy.
It is recommended to consider taking out your travel insurance policy as soon as possible after confirming your booking to provide cancellation cover if you are unable to travel (check policy wording). Travel insurance may also allow you to claim for any additional costs not covered by the Package Travel Regulations (e.g. disruption to travel cover). Not all policies are the same so you must check the wording carefully to ensure you are getting the cover you expect . Always check details with your travel insurance provider if you are unsure.
Useful Links for Travel Insurance Information https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/news/2020/02/coronavirus-travel-help-and-your-rights/
Information Regarding Booking a Future Trip.
As we are all aware, going abroad on holiday always involves a certain level of risk but understandably Covid-19 is currently giving travellers extra cause for concern. Past experience tells us this storm will pass but whilst the situation is still evolving you may well be feeling uncertain about making future travel plans.
The good news is the travel industry is very experienced at adapting and operating during these types of significant world events. The safety of travellers is the priority for travel companies, and our decisions will follow British Government advice as is always the case. Most tour operators we are dealing with have introduced more flexibility to their terms and conditions with regards to deposits, balance payment dates and also delay/amendment fees.
We pride ourselves on our excellent relationships with our specialist travel partners. They have their ear to the ground at all times ensuring we, as your travel agent, have an enormous wealth of up to the minute knowledge from countless sources to help inform our advice and suggestions for our clients. We are here to listen, understand and alleviate your concerns so do come and talk to us about your requirements. We would be delighted to help you plan a wonderful holiday to look forward to, always with the added reassurance of full financial protection. The silver lining might be that this is the excuse you’ve needed to try something completely different for your next trip!
Whatever your thoughts, come and share them with us and we will try to help you find your perfect escape.
Foreign Office advice
NHS Health Advice
Cruise Lines International Advice
Travel Insurance Advice
World Health Organisation Information