Advice for Encompass Africa clients
effected by the COVID-19 pandemic
Information updated: Monday 18 May, 12pm (AEST)
The World Health Organisation declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic on 11 March 2020, resulting in wide-spread international travel restrictions. Since that time, many travel insurers have also made announcements specifically excluding loss related to COVID-19. On 18 March 2020, the Australian Government advised all travelling Australians to return home, warning people not to embark on overseas travel at this time.
This unprecedented global crisis has created uncharted territory for everybody. The team at Encompass Africa has been working tirelessly over this period to ensure the safety of travellers in our care, securing flights as borders across Africa close. We are relieved to advise that all clients travelling in Africa are now safely at home with their loved ones.
We are currently working to ensure intending travellers will be able to experience to wonder of Africa once this crisis has passed.
Before addressing specific questions relating to your travel, we’d like to extend a huge thank you for the understanding and kind messages many of you have conveyed. This support has sustained and encouraged us during this intense and hugely busy time. We are grateful for your continued patience, tolerance and kindness. And hope that you, your family and friends remain safe and well during these unprecedented times.
How does the Covid 19 pandemic effect my existing booking?
As part of our commitment to our clients, we are closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation and following the advice of the Australian government agencies and relevant global organisations.
The current pandemic prevents from delivering any services to travellers booked to travel from now until 30 June 2020. The pandemic is considered to be an event of force majeure under our booking conditions because it is outside our control. Force Majeure events are generally catastrophic circumstances (forces of nature or acts of God) that prevent parties from performing all or part of a contract, through no fault of their own.
Bookings for travel before 31 July 2020
Guests due to depart in July 2020 can expect us to be in contact – if we have not been in touch already. We’re even having discussions with guests into August and September, providing you with updates on the ground so you can get a better perspective of where things are at.
We continue to liaise with all African suppliers and ground handlers involved in each individually-tailored itinerary, in an attempt to accommodate each client’s different circumstances. We are here to help in every way we can.
Bookings for travel after 31 July 2020
We are closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation following all the relevant advice from government agencies and global organisations. This event may affect bookings for travel after 1 August 2020, if the crisis is not resolved before that time. At this point, the majority of airlines are not handling cancellations or date changes beyond July.
If you have a booking for travel from August to December we recommend that you do not cancel or make any changes to your booking at this time. We will be in touch with you as this situation evolves with advice on how to proceed.
Am I able to postpone my trip?
Yes, you can postpone your trip if you are unable to depart on the booked date, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. We will liaise with you to organise revised arrangements that suit your unique circumstances.
Will I incur additional costs if I postpone?
Many suppliers have agreed to extend 2020 rates to bookings that are rescheduled as a result of the Covid-19 Pandemic. However, this may not apply to all providers. Additional costs may also arise as a result of factors such as changes to currency conversion rates and the season in which you intend to travel. We will work with each supplier to resolve these issues on a case by case basis.
Our standard terms and conditions ordinarily provide for an administrative fee for itinerary changes to cover the costs of our hardworking team. However, we would like to extend an option to waive this fee to clients affected by the Covid-19 pandemic who postpone and reschedule. Please advise whether you would like to exercise this option when we reschedule your booking.
When will I be able to travel to Africa?
We are advised that regular, international travel will resume when a significant decline in global infection indicates the outbreak is under control, and/or when a vaccine for COVID-19 is developed.
We will inform you as soon as we have confidence in the timeframe.
What happens if I cancel my booking?
If you decide to cancel we are afraid the booking conditions for these unfortunate circumstances would apply. Any refunds would be made in accordance with our cancellation provisions, and are likely to be very limited. This is because the money you initially provide is principally used to pay deposits to secure bookings in your holiday and to secure our services as the designers, logistic coordinators and project managers of creating your itinerary.
In our view, the best outcome would be achieved by postponing your itinerary.
More on cancellation
Our cancellation conditions are not just to protect us as a viable business with responsibilities to our own team, but they take into account the conditions of our suppliers across the African continent. The majority of our businesses are small owner run or medium size enterprises and they all operate in a socially responsible manner – that’s why we choose to work with them. Their focus and commitment to local conservation and community sustainability is crucial for the future of Africa’s tourism industry. Without an income from the safari tourism industry, some locals may revert to poaching simply to survive. Others may take back wildlife concessions for farming. With an abundance of endangered species already listed in Africa like lions, mountain gorillas, elephants, rhinos and giraffes, the impact of Covid-19 could prove devastating to their very existence.
“Cancelling trips is socially responsible; feeling disappointed about it is human”
-Caitlin Morton, CNTraveler