Escorted touring operators say their health and safety protocols can “be better” than the requirements of the destinations they travel to when trips restart after the Covid-19 pandemic.
Leaders from members of the Association of Touring and Adventure Suppliers explained how they had collaborated over safety measures to ensure best practice across the board.
Chairman Brian Young, managing director of G Adventures, said: “As we start to come through this, there’s clearly going to be a need from our passengers around safety and confidence in terms of what we’re all doing individually, as well as what’s going to be dictated by the various or authorities in different destinations.
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“So it was key to get together and look at what everybody’s doing because there’s clearly commonality in terms of the transportation we use, cleanliness around hotels, distance, food, etc.”
Young said it was Atas’ role to get members’ individual health and safety protocols out to travel agents so they can inform their customers – and explained that Atas would have information on all 22 operator members’ protocols “in one place”.
He said “an important facet” of selling touring is noting the presence of a guide, which he said reassures customers that “they’ve got an expert on hand throughout the tour”.
Giles Hawke, chief executive of Cosmos and Globus, said: “We will all make sure, as touring companies, that we’re working to at least be as good as the guidelines of any country we go to – and all of us will try and be better than any guidelines are in place.”
He said operators were assessing the size of tour groups, social distancing, air conditioning on coaches, and was working with excursion providers to ensure they meet guidance.
Hawke noted that the “great thing” about having a guide is that they offer “quality control” throughout the tour, “day-in, day-out, all the time” and “can feed back immediately if there’s an issue”.
Ulla Hefel Böhler, chief executive of Insight Vacations and Luxury Gold, said the sister operators had introduced ‘wellbeing directors’ to each of their tours which offer tour directors an “extra pair of hands” and give customers “reassurance”.
“We’ve looked at every single aspect of our trips. We can absolutely dot all the Is and cross all the Ts,” she said, adding that operators were “stronger together” when “sharing best practices”. For example, Böhler noted that parent company TTC had been speaking to the World Travel and Tourism Council, and sharing its guidelines with fellow Atas members.
Young added that Atas’ role was to bring together operators who were “working in their own lanes” so that the association can give all the relevant information to agents.
“We can promote the great work everyone’s doing to the agent fraternity so that at least the agents are clear,” he said.
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