Half a year has passed since the “normal” times we enjoyed – in Canada amongst other countries – took a very sharp turn on to a road of uncertainty. Instead of looking after many of our loyal travellers on various tours throughout the world, we had to cancel our entire line-up of tours for 2020 and have been spending our time processing refunds and assisting with insurance claim procedures.
In the meantime, we are also looking at the future and what 2021 and beyond might bring for our tours, and travel in general. We love to be optimistic but we are also realistic and have to keep our eyes open to the fact that the fear and uncertainty which have been spread might not leave our lives any time soon.
While many businesses try and spread hopeful optimism, the reality is that we do not know how things will work for group travel in the next months/years. The fact that governments can, at the drop of a hat, impose closures and special emergency measures, make long term planning very difficult.
We all love travelling and want to go out there, explore other countries, experience different cultures, travel with like-minded people and interact with our fellow human beings around the world. But who will guarantee you, the traveller, that you will be able to book confidently, with your monies being at least to a large extent protected? Insurance companies and large operators are trying to find solutions, but the reality is that there is no airtight situation out there that will cover you completely.
We are also working on solutions for the above issue: a combination of travel insurance policies that offer coverage which allows you to cancel for ANY reason (these are usually more expensive but worth considering at this particular time), and making sure that payments are as consumer-friendly as possible – although the latter will be more difficult for special events, concerts etc.
We will make sure that we can offer the best possible cancellation policies / Terms & Conditions depending on the tour we are offering. All our tours are custom-tailored and very different than the cookie-cutter tours by companies who run the same tour several times a year; they may have the option for you to join the same tour at a later date, but the question still begs for who is covering costs related to the tour not taking place, who pays the driver, guide etc. or at least supports them somehow for not having a job.
We cannot postpone tours on an ongoing basis as our itineraries are often built around special events, with a unique focus. However, we will implement a system that will hopefully make things work for you, our suppliers and our company. Each tour will require a different approach. E.g.: we have chartered a boat for 16 travellers for a Galápagos Tour in February 2021. If air travel is available and the situation stable, then the trip might be possible; we will ask every traveller to take a medical test 2 days prior to departure, to ensure everyone is healthy and offer the best peace of mind for spending time together on a ship. Once on the trip, one has limited contact with large populations as the time is spent on the nature islands and smaller towns in a country with low risk (should Ecuador be a high-risk destination at the time of sending a deposit, we would not go forward with the tour).
As you are reading this note, we are re-launching our tours (a selection of the ones we had planned for 2020) and you might want to consider coming along on one of them.
Here is the preliminary booking process for the coming weeks:
- All our tours which are available for booking are again visible on our website
- The tours will be run with smaller groups, to allow for more space on coaches
- If you wish to come along on any of these tours, please send us the reservation form completed
- NO DEPOSIT is required at this stage
- Priority is being given to the travellers who were signed up on the same tour for 2020
- You will notice that the Terms & Conditions are in colour on the brochure, which means that they are not finalized yet. Once we are ready to accept deposits, we will advise the new payment plan/Terms & Conditions (different for each tour).
- WHEN WILL WE BE ABLE TO TAKE PAYMENTS FOR 2021 TOURS? We would like to see how September/October/November 2020 develops in regards to the medical situation. We know that winter is regular flu season, and should that kick in on a larger scale, then COVID-19 and flu might get lumped together and make it impossible for travellers to feel confident signing up for an international group tour. If that is the case, then the spring tours might be off the table.
Airlines and suppliers will also settle into a way of operating over the next weeks/months which will impact how we travel and we will review this as we go. We believe that this honest approach towards what could happen is reflecting our company’s philosophy. We have always been about honesty and substance, not razzle-dazzle and make-believe. We do not want to pretend that the world will be just fine and we can also not erase all concerns as we are aware that certain risks are always going to be there.
We are fortunate to live in a country like Canada but we still have no input (or very little) in what the media and governments are doing. The economies of the world have been linked together in a very intricate web over centuries and to just stay in our own little bubble does not work anymore. We can only hope and keep our fingers crossed that we will soon be able to visit our friends around the world, helping others make a living while doing the same.
Enjoy every day and we will stay in touch.
Your STI team
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