Last updated: 6 March, 2021
After the disastrous year that was 2020 and the up-and-downs of different COVID-19 waves ebbing in and out, we are finally seeing a light at the end of this very dark tunnel. We’re certainly not completely out of the woods just yet, but seemingly each day the news is starting to get more positive. Which leads us to wonder…
Is it time to think about travel again?
Well in short, experts thing… YES! While of course we cannot predict the future (2020 sure emphasized that point!!), the beginning of mass vaccination, and the ramping of daily doses thanks to a few more vaccines joining the likes of the first ones out of the door, Pfizer and Moderna, certainly points to a day not too far in the future where countries can safely reopen and welcome travelers once again.
But again, let’s remember that we are not yet done with the pandemic. Many of the world’s poorest countries are lagging behind vaccination, and it will take some time before we can all reach some kind of mass immunity… if ever! It’s highly possible COVID-19 will be with us for the long foreseeable future, but the vaccinations, advances in treatment and overall health and regulations, should help us cope with this and live our lives as per normal. We already do this with many diseases. Malaria and Dengue are still prevalent, but doesn’t stop many people from traveling since preventing drugs exist, and treatment is somewhat routine.
Having said that, many industry experts and Trend Analysts, from airlines to the big booking sites, do believe that international travel will restart at some point in 2021, with many predicting that by summer we’ll start seeing countries reopen safely. There are signs everywhere. Dr. Bonnie Henry, the renowned provincial health officer for British Columbia, Canada, even recently opined that the province would be in its post-pandemic world by the summer. In the US, some states have begun completely open up (which arguably be too soon) and South Africa recently reopened several of its airports after a lengthy 2nd wave.
It’s still left to be decided if countries will require vaccination to enter, but it’s perhaps more probably that travelers will still have the choice of taking a pre-flight test and maybe undergoing a couple of days of quarantine if they are not vaccinated.
Will it be safe to travel during COVID-19?
Airlines are also announcing more and more flights, many for the summer and beyond. If many people are vaccinated and tests are more faster and more rigorous, then flying will return as a safe way to travel. Studies have shown that the risk of contracting the virus during a flight is probably lower than in many confined spaces (i.e. restaurant, bus, store, etc.) as aircrafts have cabin air filtration systems equipped with HEPA filters which have similar performance to those used to keep the air clean in hospital operating rooms. In fact, as long as everyone is wearing a mask, the risk of catching COVID-19 on a plane is almost non-existent (research paper here). It’s important to note that these studies were sponsored by various US airlines, operators and airports. Still, the results are promising, as is this study conducted in 2018, prior to the pandemic, that found the chances of infection highly unlikely for passengers seated farther than 2 seats on either side. This study also did not take into account the wearing of masks.
Hotels also seem to be safer than we imagine. Just like the virus doesn’t travel through HEPA filters, it also doesn’t travel through walls, and as hotels don’t have an open floor plan, and provided your room has been properly cleaned and sanitized, the risk of transmission is low.
Finally, many Medical Travel Insurance companies now have plans which cover COVID-19, which is great peace-of-mind for any traveler, should you contract the virus during your travels.
The risk of transmission is higher whenever the traveler is indoor, whether it be in a restaurant, airport lines, on public transportation, etc. As such, Group Travel is often mentioned as the potential preferred option for many travelers — and in fact may be the ONLY option allowed in certain countries at first — because the nature of this type of travel is conducive to maintaining some semblance of a safe bubble. World Vegan Travel trips are especially well suited to safe travel. During meals, we usually privatize a restaurant or at least a section of it. On the road we usually use only private transportation such as our own coach or boat. And as we privatize either entire hotels or a big section of them, we limit exposure even at night!
So here at World Vegan Travel, we feel like it’s time to once again dream of exotic and exciting faraway destinations and start thinking of your 2021 travel plans! Of course, if 2020 taught us anything is that nothing is ever for certain! But life does go on and we must plough ahead, and with all of this in mind we’ve decided to offer trips from September 2021 only. We hope this will give the world enough time to find travel solutions, whether they be vaccines or rigorous testing at points of departure and entry, etc. The travel industry is ready to welcome travelers again and it really needs visitors!
WORLD VEGAN TRAVEL’S COVID-19 PRECAUTIONS
A lot of thought has gone into making sure that our 2021 trips will be as safe as possible for our travelers, leaders, crew and suppliers. At every step in the journey, we have consulted with suppliers/hotels on how to travel safely in this new normal. New minimum standards have been implemented with emphasis on increased hygiene and sanitation. Some of our precautions, both usual and new, include, but are not limited to:
- Privatizing hotels or large sections of them;
- Privatizing our meals, whether by taking over the entire restaurant/dining venue or cordoning off a large section just for our group;
- Privatizing the great majority of our activities by booking private tours;
- All transportation is in private coach/boat/plane (with an exception on our Botswana/Cape Town trips — see below);
- Our usual amenities bag will include hand sanitizer and a mask;
- Our hotels and coach will be cleaned and sanitized daily, with hand sanitizer and masks readily available;
- Periodical temperature-taking of travelers, guides and tour leaders
- Reviews of the policies of our suppliers (i.e. transportation, hotels, restaurants, etc.) in regards to COVID-19
On our Botswana & Cape Town trips, we will need to take a return international flight from Cape Town (South Africa) to Maun (Botswana). As mentioned above, aircrafts are probably safer than anywhere else due to their on-board HEPA filters, and we will strive to have our group seated together as well. However there is still exposure to other travelers before and after the flight (i.e. security and boarding lines, immigration, etc.) and we will try to minimize this to the best of our ability. Still, it should also be noted that these trips are in December 2021, and it is believed (and hoped!) that testing and/or vaccination will be prevalent by that time.
REQUIREMENT TO JOIN A TRIP
Traveling with us during COVID-19 means there are a few additional safety precautions you’ll need to agree to.
At this time, we do not have plans to require a negative COVID-19 test result in order to travel with us, unless it is required by local law regulation. This information should be available from the foreign travel advice provided by your government for the trip’s destination.
On the first day of the trip, at the welcome meeting, all travelers will be required to fill out a health questionnaire asking to disclose whether you’ve been diagnosed with, or had symptoms of, or knowingly been in close contact of anyone with COVID-19 within the past 14 days prior to the trip.
You will need to wear a mask prior to the health screening at the group meeting. After that, when and where a mask is required will depend on the government advice in the destination. Your leader will brief you on mask-wearing throughout the trip.
For the time being, we will not be accepting any singles in shared-rooms. If you are traveling alone you will need to pay the single supplement (if applicable) in order to get your own room.
Since our trips are highly catered and made of activities that need a lot of planning and organization, all payments (the initial sign-up fee, 50% deposit and final payment) are all non-refundable. This is because we must forward payments for accommodation, transportation, suppliers, etc. very early on, in order to privatize our accommodation, activities, transportation and meals.
Should there be a need to cancel the trip due to a COVID-19 reason, and before the trip’s deadline (see individual trip’s website for the deadline date) then the sign-up fee will be refunded, minus any small processing fees, if applicable. Please note that the refund of your sign-up fee will only apply if World Vegan Travel cancels the trip.
Our policy to run a trip or not comes down to several factors. We take into account the government foreign travel advisories and guidelines of reputable authorities, such as the WHO. Furthermore, we place a lot of emphasis on the local situation, and may choose to not run a trip should the local authorities in the country we are visiting places restrictions which may prevent a trip from happening, or will make travel too challenging.
Examples of possible reasons WVT might cancel a trip include (but not limited to):
- border closings/lock-downs;
- flight limitations;
- mandatory quarantine on arrival and/or upon return to home country;
- substantial spike in local cases that renders the area unsafe;
- local restrictions imposed on our activities, restaurants, hotels, etc., that makes it unfeasible for us to run the trip in accordance with our high standards of quality
If the trip needs to be canceled once we have started to accept the post-signup fee payments (50% deposit and final remaining balance), we will either move you to the replacement trip, or should that not be convenient to you, WVT will turn your payments into a voucher that can be used on future trips (terms will be noted upon delivery of the vouchers).
If the trip DOES go ahead (ie none of the above cancellation reasons apply) and you are unable to attend the trip for any personal reasons, even related to COVID-19 (ie your own country changes its travel/quarantine policy, you contract the virus, etc), there is unfortunately no refund.
Should you still need to cancel for any reason once you have signed up, our usual conditions apply: we will offer your spot to the first person(s) on the waiting list. If we are able to fill your spot, we will refund all payments made, minus processing fees. Having said that, do note that there is no guarantee we will be able to fill up your spot. For this reason, again, it is a good idea to get solid trip insurance when you first sign up but be aware that insurance companies have only certain situations that will allow a claim to be paid out to their travellers.
PROCEDURE IF YOU OR ANOTHER TRAVELER CONTRACTS COVID-19
In the unfortunate event that you or someone else on the trip has symptoms of COVID-19 while traveling with us, we will assist you to access the appropriate diagnostic test and, if necessary, medical care as soon as possible. We will follow the local guidelines in regards to whether a COVID-19 test is required, whether there is a need to self-isolate or quarantine and whether there is a risk to other travelers in the group.
Should COVID-19 be confirmed, our full health and safety protocols will be enacted, including informing local health authorities, informing the group of the potential exposure, and sanitation protocols such as deep cleaning and disinfecting of accommodation and transport.
Please note that while we will assist to ensure that you get all the help and support you need, any expenses for testing, treatment or self-isolation will need to be covered by you and your travel insurer, so please ensure you have access to funds while travelling in case of this or other emergencies.
Should you need to leave the trip, or if the trip gets cancelled, due to a case of COVID-19 in the group, we will try — but in no way is this guaranteed — to offer you a voucher for whatever we are able to get back from the unused portion of the trip. However this is completely dependent on our suppliers and partners, and you should view any voucher as a bonus and not the rule.
We hope you’ll entertain the idea of travel in 2021, and feel safe doing so. Here at World Vegan Travel we are committed to running trips if — and ONLY IF — we can do so safely and according to local laws, regulations and policies. If borders reopen, airlines provide service and your own Government allows travel, then we feel it should be ok to go out and once again experience the different culture, food, traditions and sights that the world has to offer.
Honestly, the world really needs it right now!