Things to consider when booking
travel beyond COVID-19
It remains unclear whether travel will return in the near future. It certainly looks like Australians are unlikely to travel overseas this year beyond New Zealand.
We face major obstacles in opening up travel to destinations that have either inadequately managed the spread of the corona virus or were hit last, like most of the African continent! This means the full impact of COVID-19 is yet to be fully realised.
Yet so many of us value the personal reward and meaning of international travel to places like Africa and would desperately like to have something to look forward to beyond COVID-19.
So let’s look at the things you need to consider before booking travel beyond COVID-19.
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As you may have read in the media, airlines across the world have grounded the majority of their fleet due to lock downs and travel restrictions. We’ve seen an enormous overall reduction of flights and air passengers both internationally and domestically. The full impact is still unknown and some airlines will simply not survive this pandemic.
In addition to that, how do airlines address social distancing and what will be the impact on ticket pricing? Many airlines are geared up already to do their best in protecting passengers and staff with masks compulsory, reductions in meal services and flight attendants wearing some additional protective gear.
With all of these variables in mind, it’s hard to book international flights right now. Having said that, we are seeing airlines offering flexible cancellation policies essentially allowing you to book completely “risk-free”. Many people are snapping up cheap flights knowing they can cancel and get full refunds if the holiday cannot become a reality.
At Encompass Africa, we are closely monitoring airlines to ascertain their offering in terms of seating and social distancing and cancellation policies, ticket pricing structures and of course their scheduling – what destinations will they be operating to in future and the frequency of flights.
There’s certainly going to be an epic change to the way we fly, starting with airports as outlined in this article by CNTraveler
We are starting to see more and more people considering international travel because of an overwhelming desire to stay optimistic. Having said that, we are predictable creatures and from conversations with clients, many are preferring to stay closer to home for their first holiday and everybody is hoping that will be in 2020. Beyond that, our guests seem to have a burning desire to return to their favourite place for that first big international trip. Thankfully, Africa is close to the hearts of many travellers here in Australia and beyond.
We’ve had enquiries for 2021 and 2022 travel. But it is important to note – travellers have no intention of travelling until it’s absolutely safe to do so. What they are doing is “placing their bets on when travel will open up again. And industry experts say these people are not alone thanks to enticing deals, more flexible cancellation policies and a rising wave of optimism” said an industry expert in a recent Conde Nast Traveler article. And we couldn’t agree more!
Land arrangements continued…
Travellers who have or are booking holidays to Europe, America, the South Pacific and Asia are seeing cancellation policies more flexible than ever before, so there is less risk of losing money should they have to cancel outright. Africa operates differently and it’s important to explain that. While travel is not an option now, everybody on the ground in Africa is welcoming postponements to ensure dream holidays are still had and money can continue to keep the camps and lodges alive.
In Africa, seasons dictate opening periods of properties across the continent and there’s a combination of permanent hotels and lodges through to seasonal camps set up for short durations and even moving with animal migrations. As you can imagine costs are significant in the set up of camps, permits to operate, park fees for visitors, extensive health and safety protocols and training of guides and staff. These costs are incurred whether guests are able to travel or not.
The greatest attraction about Africa is the precise reason why you won’t get your deposit funds back – it protects the wilderness and wildlife through the conservation and park fees, guarantees the existence of the small, intimate safari camps in remote areas and employs talented local people to be your guides and service team on the ground. As a generalisation, the African safari industry cannot rely on “walk-ins” off the street happy to pay the big bucks for a stellar safari experience. It just doesn’t happen.
As a result of the way things operate in Africa, the industry is feeling the full force of COVID-19 and literally on its knees right now. Yet Africa needs tourism more than ever before because it helps so many people out of severe poverty, protects these beautiful wilderness areas and their precious, much of it endangered wildlife. The consequences of no visitors to national parks and conservation areas is severe. Already we are seeing spiralling poaching activity and an immediate spike in the illegal bush meat trade. But that’s another story for another time.
Perhaps the elephant in the room post COVID-19 is travel insurance. When it comes to buying insurance, there are going to be new rules after the pandemic. The companies will be reevaluating their terms and conditions.
Already a number of companies have amended exclusion clauses for COVID-19. So make sure when you buy insurance for future travel, you choose a plan that covers you if you get sick and cannot travel or if you get sick during your trip from COVID-19.
Also be mindful about a new clause that some companies are implementing around “fear of travel”.
Remember not all travel insurance is equal! Some cheaper policies have significant exclusions. Also don’t assume that all travel insurance companies define the terms the same.
Given travel insurance is complicated, now more than ever before it is important you do not make any assumptions and instead:
1. get enough coverage
2. get the right kind of travel insurance to suit your needs
3. ask all the questions before you book
4. read the fine print
5. buy direct or through a site that specialises in travel insurance
6. don’t ignore the pandemic exclusion
7. don’t choose based on price – cheap can get you into trouble in a post-pandemic world.
How you travel
How you prefer to travel abroad is hugely significant. If you prefer group tours, it’s important to consider the impact of social distancing while touring.
Private, tailor-made holidays like ours will become more and more sought after because you are guaranteed private road transfers, properties in remote areas away from crowds and with a small number of rooms well spaced out and even privately chartered light aircraft flights between destinations.
The industry as a whole is already brainstorming ideas and creating frameworks for keeping guests and their teams of staff safe.
Keen to chat about travel post COVID-19?
Encompass Africa is open for business as usual and happy to talk through your ideas and concerns about future travel to Africa and beyond. We also offer our guests Sri Lanka, the Maldives, India and the South Pacific as destinations if you fancy something closer to home.Let’s chat