I am confident that teachers can move ahead with planning international travel in 2021. I am also sure that it must be done differently. Since international travel has been significantly impacted by Covid19, how you plan and organize student travel in the near future needs to change as well. Most important is how you, as a teacher and tour leader, address student safety and financial refunds.
Before I give you advice on how to do that, let me note the positive updates that lead me to reach out to schools and encourage teachers to plan. It is only June 2020, and international travel has already resumed. This week the first tourist group from Germany landed in Spain.
There is an enormous amount of pending demand for travel. Your students have been stuck in the front of the computer for months. Most summer camps were canceled. They need something to look forward to! Meanwhile, the whole research world is in an intense and well-funded race to develop a vaccine and treatment for Covid19. And finally, this pandemic will end. I looked at the history of pandemics since 1300; they all eventually ended and life got back to how it was before.
Unfortunately, we don’t know when this will be over, so for now travel is a bumpy road. To plan a successful school trip for 2021, we need to learn how to navigate this temporarily different world.
Remember that this virus spread so fast because of international travel. And that many people, including parents and students, lost their money invested in tours or flights. In the last three months, there were plenty of stories about travel companies and airlines that refused refunds or offered some type of voucher, separating their clients from thousands of dollars.
So, here are tips that will help you win parents’ trust, plan the safest way to travel for your students, and make sure that if another outbreak happens, they will get their money back. And I mean money, not shaky vouchers or credits.
1. Negotiate contracts that allow for cancellation with financial refund in case travel is not possible.
The new magic world in the travel industry is flexibility. I use it these days in all my travel-related calls. The travel industry has never been more desperate to get business and is aware that flexibility will help bring travelers back. We talked to our partners – airlines, hotels, bus companies – and together we came up with an offer called “Dream and plan now, pay later”.
You can read more about it here: https://colibriboston.org/faculty-led-study-abroad-trips/
Some of the most important changes we secured for our groups are:
Delayed payments – Teachers can plan trips and enroll students, but the final payment is not due until 1-2 months before departure. This gives us time to evaluate safety without risking our clients’ money.
Refunds in case of a pandemic outbreak – Yes, trust me this is possible in current circumstances. We have it now in our contracts with all vendors.
Solid travel insurance options – that include “cancel for any reason” and full protection. At Colibri Boston, we do not sell specific insurance but recommend several different ones for parents to choose from. It is a good business practice.
2. Visit countries that are close to US borders, on shorter flights.
This is how the flights will look like for a while until even the smallest risk of infection disappears. Imagine flying like that for 15 hours? But 3-5 hours seems doable, even for a group of 15-year-olds. Instead of Asia and Africa, think about Costa Rica, Panama, Cuba, and some parts of Europe. Select countries that have had success containing Covid19.
3. Travel with smaller groups.
Dragging 40-50 students through continual health checks that begin at the airport and managing them in this new reality may be a nightmare. A smaller group increases options, from hotels to restaurants to sights, at every point on the trip. At Colibri Boston, we have temporarily limited each group to 25 people. Changing an itinerary, if it becomes necessary, is also much more feasible.
4. Consider having an alternative destination written in the contract.
Countries have had different success with coronavirus. It might be that one country will close its borders while others are perfectly safe. If you decide to use this option, choose an alternative country that is similar to your first choice, culturally and in cost. For example, at Colibri Boston, we offer Cuba and Belize, Poland, and the Czech Republic, Iceland and Ireland.
5. Choose travel providers that will stand behind you if something happens.
Before you book your travel providers – hotels, airlines, bus companies, travel agencies – do diligent research. Check reviews from multiple reputable sources to find a provider who will stand with you and your students. Read contracts carefully and, before signing, get your needs written into the contract, so it’s fair for both sides. Know that these contracts are open to negotiation – you don’t need to sign the first version presented to you.
To compare best travel insurance companies check their reviews under: https://www.consumersadvocate.org/travel-insurance
Negotiating travel contracts: http://www.themeetingmagazines.com/cit/negotiating-hotel-contracts/
Updates on reopening for all European countries: https://reopen.europa.eu/en
Data on Covid19 numbers per each country: EndCoronavirus.org
If you have any questions regarding this post or your future student travel, please contact us:
Phone: +1 617 301 1237
Colibri Boston is a boutique travel company offering tours for adults and student groups. With Covid19, we issued cash refunds to all our travelers regardless of their travel insurance policy.