As we’re looking ahead to seeing the world again, the question on every traveler’s mind is: When will it be safe—and what will travel look like? We asked our Manager of Safety & On-Tour Support, Alaina, who has headed up our COVID-19 response and on-tour safety updates, to tell us more about the future of travel and what Go Ahead Tours is doing to get ready for it.
How has your team been monitoring and reacting to COVID-19 so far?
Our safety team has been closely monitoring COVID-19 trends worldwide. We receive constant news updates, communicate with staff in our other offices around the world, and assess any changes to guidelines made by the CDC, WHO, and the U.S. Department of State. We are, of course, disappointed that due to the ongoing restrictions many of our travelers have had to reschedule their travels, but we’re using this time to carefully evaluate each of our tours and all of our safety procedures.
What are some key initiatives you’ve taken on?
We take pride in Go Ahead’s already strategic and comprehensive approach to safety, and embrace this opportunity to scrutinize every detail as we prepare to support our travelers. During this time, we’ve worked on our new safety measures—you can see those comprehensive updates in our Travel-Ready Approach. We have also updated our staff training protocols to include responses to COVID-19, we continue to connect with our partners to enforce new standards for health and safety, and we have made changes to our policies to better support our travelers’ needs before and during their tour experience. We’ve always prioritized our travelers’ safety and will continue to do so as we continue to navigate this unprecedented global event.
How does your team work together with EF staff around the globe?
Our global network is a defining feature of our safety response and is what sets us apart from other companies. Our Safety and Incident Response Team is spread out across four continents, which means we have staff working around-the-clock. Additionally, EF has over 500 schools and offices around the world. This means, in the event of an emergency, we have local staff who can respond immediately as needed. Our local teams can assist with logistics, help with translating, or serve as added support. It also means we receive information about each of our destinations from local staff and partners who are in those locations. This is particularly helpful in understanding how specific cities and sites are responding to the pandemic, and how we can feel confident that our tours will feel both engaging and safe when we return.
How did you create the updated safety guidelines for the Travel-Ready Approach?
Go Ahead has—and will continue to—create guidelines for our travelers based on extensive research and communication with our staff, travelers, and partners. We take into consideration advisories issued by international health organizations, as well as those released by national governments. We also evaluate our response based on advice and information supplied by our network of staff and partners around the globe. We continuously evaluate each component of our tours to try and anticipate and plan for unique challenges that may arise based on the recent world events. Lastly, we are travelers ourselves, so we also take into consideration our own hesitations and questions. We wouldn’t send our travelers anywhere we wouldn’t also feel comfortable and confident traveling!
What is the World Travel & Tourism Safe Travels Stamp?
The World Travel & Tourism Safe Travels stamp is the world’s first-ever global safety and hygiene stamp for Travel & Tourism, designed specifically to address COVID-19 and similar outbreaks. The World Travel and Tourism Council works with private companies in all areas of the travel industry, across the globe. The organization has created, and continues to update, guidelines for multiple sectors of the travel industry, based on research and expert reports. Companies seeking to receive the Safe Travels stamp must be able to report how they plan to comply with the recommendations in place. We’re proud to have already received the Safe Travels stamp, due to our proactive considerations and the comprehensive health and safety strategies of our Travel-Ready Approach.
What makes group travel the best way to see the world in the future?
A lot of the things that have always made Go Ahead great—like our global presence, expert Tour Directors, and 24/7 support team—now are more important than ever. When you’re planning a trip, you’ll want to know if the hotels and restaurants are observing strict cleaning protocols, if there will be social distancing at the sites you visit, and what to do if something changes while you’re on the road. Our Travel-Ready Approach means we’ve already done that research for you. We provide you with only the best experiences, we’re proactively monitoring all the destinations we visit, and we’re able to respond quickly to events that may occur during your trip. So, all you have to do is enjoy your travels.
As a traveler, what can I do to make sure I’m staying safe?
We recommend all travelers follow guidelines issued by the WHO and the CDC. That means:
Frequently washing your hands with soap and warm water
Practicing social distancing
Wearing a mask in public spaces
Avoiding touching your face
Checking with your doctor regarding any pre-existing conditions
Staying home or self-isolating if you feel sick
Most importantly, stay aware! Avoid close contact with anyone who appears ill and, if you begin to experience any symptoms, report them to a doctor or your Tour Director if you’re on tour. Our Tour Directors have all been trained on best practices, and know how to respond should any travelers fall ill during the trip.
What can travelers expect at the airport and on flights?
Individual airlines and airports are each responsible for developing and enforcing their own health and safety strategies, so your experience could look different from others, and could even change from one airport to another. It will be important to follow the guidance of local authorities and staff and comply with any posted regulations. We strongly recommend all travelers wear a mask on their flights and in crowded sections of the airport. You may also want to consider wearing gloves, bringing hand sanitizer, or frequently washing your hands after touching high-contact surfaces, such as handrails and security bins. Because of increased cleaning and social distancing measures, you may notice longer lines prior to boarding and empty seats on flights. So, we recommend arriving to the airport even earlier than normal and checking your airline’s website for more detailed information.
Are you looking forward to traveling again? What do you think will be different?
I am certainly looking forward to getting back out into the world and experiencing all it has to offer! Of course, I am waiting patiently to do so until I feel confidently that I can protect myself and others in the process.
I do expect travel will feel different at first. People traveling, and those who connect with travelers in their home countries, will be taking new precautions to keep themselves and their loved ones safe. This means we are likely to continue to see guidelines in place around site capacities, social distancing, and mask-wearing. These guidelines don’t need to prevent travelers from enjoying their experiences, however. If anything, what I hope will be different in this new age of travel, is that we will all have an increased sense of our global citizenship and how we are all connected. Our interactions with others create powerful impacts. We can help keep each other safe. We can connect over shared experiences. Together, we can slowly begin to shake off feelings of fear, isolation, and sadness, and can look forward to the excitement of new adventures and the beauty of creating new friendships.
Learn more about our Travel-Ready Approach and enhanced safety measures that put your well-being first.