LATEST UPDATE 15.2.23
It was probably only ever a case of 'when' not 'if' and indeed the unthinkable has happened. Doug and I have just returned from leading a 12 day tour around Morocco whilst having to deal with a Covid outbreak.
The good news is, we coped. The group remained stoical and good humoured and the sun continued to shine for us all. Thankfully nobody got seriously ill and the experience has given us the opportunity to reflect on how best to manage the situation should it arise again.
'Patient zero' was a client who flew in from the US. Around the 4th day of the tour, she started to feel unwell. She tested overnight, was found to be positive and she sent us a message informing us immediately.
She and her husband (who was travelling with her) withdrew from the tour at that point. The remainder of the group travelled to our next location the following day, as planned, while they remained behind. They discussed rejoining the tour as soon as they tested negative but in fact they subsequently decided to return to the US. Both were fully vaccinated and boosted; neither had had Covid before. Their cases appeared to be relatively mild.
Despite their quick action, they had been travelling in a minibus with us and subsequently one other person in the group tested positive, along with both Doug and myself. Truly the worst possible scenario. As we were still travelling around, we hired separate transport for the three of us, we masked up, kept our distance outside and we ate at a table well apart from the rest of the group. At the time of writing there are no legal obligations to isolate in Morocco.
The tour did carry on as planned - teaching was delivered at a distance and everyone was very understanding as we did our best to limp along as best we could.
Having witnessed the havoc that an outbreak can wreak on a group tour, we have put together some notes, detailing what will be required of you, should you contract Covid whilst on one of our tours. And also, what you can expect from us.
I hope it goes without saying that this is in no way a blame game and we have to rely on the integrity of people to speak up if they feel unwell.
If you develop Covid symptoms, we will ask that you immediately test. If that test is negative, we will suggest that you wear a mask and keep testing until symptoms disappear.
If you test positive then you will be required to withdraw from the group. If the tour has a varied itinerary, you will need to arrange your own transport if you wish to continue along the route. We will help you all we can with logistics but you will need to claim on your insurance for extra costs incurred. You will also be required to eat away from the group and comply with the requirements of the country we are visiting.
Should you decide you wish to return home, then we will also help you as much as we are able - as will Elaine. Again, the costs must be borne by you. It is for this reason we strongly urge you to take out travel insurance.
If you decide to remain on the tour, you can rejoin the group as soon as you are able to provide us with a negative test result.
The same conditions will apply if either of the people leading the tour test positive.
We we travel with a supply of masks, hand sanitiser and lateral flow tests but we strongly advise you to bring your own. Similarly if you feel you are in a vulnerable group, you may wish to investigate the possibility of getting a supply of Paxlovid from your doctor. I do not know if they prescribe such medication 'in case' but it may well be worth enquiring as it has been show to shorten the duration of the illness. When our client got sick in Morocco we were on the edge of the Sahara Desert - about seven hours away from a pharmacy who might hold a supply of such drugs.
Since returning home, a couple more people in the group have, regrettably, also tested positive.
The situation is far from ideal - of course, we have choices; we can either choose to stay at home or we can continue to travel and deal with any possible consequences. The experience in Morocco has had a big impact on both Doug and me and despite not being responsible for the outbreak, we both feel very bad about the way things unfolded. We will do everything in our power to stop it happening again. However, this is the world we are now living in, and if we wish to continue to travel, we need to accept that this remains a possibility.
All we can do is assure you that we take every preventative measure we can and hope that as time goes on, the danger of Covid recedes.
LATEST UDATE 17.02.22
We felt it was time to provide an update on how we see the Covid-19 situation and how it affects our forthcoming tours and workshops. We also wanted reaffirm the facility we have put in place to provide extra reassurance and flexibility when booking new tours and workshops with us during this time of the pandemic.
As always we will only travel if the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice is that it is safe to do so and if we feel we can run a tour while taking care of your health and safety. This will always be our first priority.
Our government now sees Covid as being in a transition period in the community - gradually becoming a virus we have to live with, not unlike ‘flu’. Some of our requirements now reflect this change.
It seems that travel insurance which includes cover for Covid-19 is now available for most people. It is important that YOU CHECK on the advice of your own government about the advisability of travel to a particular destination as this may affect the validity of any insurance you purchase. PLEASE NOTE that should you need to enter quarantine or if travel plans are disrupted due to you or another member of the tour becoming Covid positive, any extra accommodation, food, travel and/or other costs are NOT included in the cost of the tour and must be claimed through your travel insurance. We strongly advise you NOT to travel unless you have adequate travel insurance for your needs.
FOR YOUR REASSURANCE
- If we have to cancel a tour or workshop you will be given the choice of moving your deposit to another tour or workshop or receiving a full refund.
- You can transfer your booking to any other tour or workshop up to 12 weeks prior to your date of travel.
- If YOU decide to cancel a booking we will attempt to re-sell your place for you. If we are successful, we will refund your deposit (less a £100 admin fee).
- It is now A REQUIREMENT for all clients booking on our tours and workshops that they be double vaccinated AND boosted at least 14 days before the commencement date of the tour. (This also applies to to tour and workshop leaders). An exception to the booster vaccination requirement will be if you have been double jabbed then subsequently caught Covid-19. Medical evidence has shown that this gives you a higher level of antibody protection than the booster vaccination and so all we ask is that you email us to inform us that this is your status - we will not require that you have also had a booster. You will be asked to send us written evidence of your vaccination status four weeks before the date of the tour or workshop. This will be held confidentially in accordance with GDPR regulations and destroyed securely immediately at the conclusion of the tour or workshop. If you cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons we will require WRITTEN confirmation of this from your medical practitioner. Please note; the majority of countries require proof of vaccination in addition to negative covid tests prior to entry and so if you are unable to be vaccinated, you may be prohibited from joining a tour or workshop for this reason.
(PLEASE NOTE; If you decide to cancel your place on a tour due to Covid-19 or for any other reason and we are unable to re-sell your place for you (and so cannot refund your deposit less our admin fee), should the tour later be cancelled by us for any reason you will not be entitled to a refund. By cancelling your place on the tour or workshop you are terminating your contract with us).
The UK government (on whose advice we have to base our terms and conditions as a UK based company) has recently dropped the requirement for people who are travelling to the UK who are double jabbed to have a negative Covid test prior to arrival. They are soon (at the time of this writing) planning to drop the requirement in law to self-isolate if an individual catches Covid-19 - effectively treating the virus like any other flu like infection.
As a result of this decision, we will no longer require participants on UK based tours and workshops to take a lateral flow test prior to joining the group. For those joining tours outside of the UK, a test will only be required if it is also required by your airline, your government or the government of the country to which we are travelling.
The UK government has also changed the law on wearing masks in public and they are no longer a requirement on Public Transport, although some transport authorities continue to make it a requirement.
During this period of conflicting advice and situations on mask wearing we will make a decision on each tour as respects whether wearing masks in the tour vehicles will be a requirement. This will be based on the local laws, the covid situation locally and the feelings of the group. Experience is already teaching us that many joining tours are initially nervous about being in close contact with each other after so long in relative isolation, but as we spend time together as a group this feeling subsides as we acclimatise to socialising once again and so many stop feeling the need to wear masks as assiduously when together. If in any doubt we will err on the side of wearing masks in the vehicles.
We have also completed an in-depth risk assessment for running tours and workshops during the current Covid-19 situation.
Needless to say we will only be visiting hotels, cafes, restaurants and other venues which are practising Covid-19 safe procedures.
We will be researching every destination as the tour or workshop approaches regarding the current Covid situation and UK Government advice on travel. We will keep all those booked on the trip advised and give as much help and guidance as we possibly can. However, ultimately, the decision to travel is yours if the tour goes ahead. You cannot assume that our decision to go ahead and travel means it is necessarily the right thing for you. You must take into account your own health, the risks and the advice of your own government agencies.
Please always read and understand our terms and conditions of booking which you can find HERE.
We wanted to give you an update, as far as is possible, on how we see the current Covid-19 Coronavirus Pandemic situation affecting our tours and workshops.
The first thing to say is that, as you can probably imagine, the situation remains unclear. It does appear that in many countries the measures being taken are proving effective and thankfully the situation is improving dramatically. In these areas, restrictions are slowly being lifted as the authorities try to open up again. However, no one really knows if there will be a second wave of infections.
We remain optimistic that travel will gradually open up but we also have to be realistic and realise that, at least until an effective vaccine is developed, things will not be as they were. Overseas travellers returning to the UK currently face 14 days in quarantine and the same applies to travel into many other countries (although the current FOC advice remains against all overseas travel at the moment). It also seems we need to expect delays at airports as additional measures will be in place to reduce infection risks.
We will not run any tours or workshops until the government advise it is safe to do so. At that time we will make our own risk assessments and make a judgement about whether tours should go ahead on a tour by tour basis. If a tour or workshop does go ahead then we will follow all current guidelines on health, safety and social distancing. It may be these guidelines that make running a tour impractical (such as transport issues, for example).
We will liaise with all of your clients booked on tours and workshops as soon as we know the status of their booking. It may seem that we are leaving the decision on a tours viability until very late. This is not by choice. We cannot cancel a tour until we have the Foreign & Commonwealth Office guidance for the dates of travel to a particular destination. If we cancel before this we are unable to reclaim your deposits from the hotels, airlines and other companies we have made bookings with on your behalf. Equally, you will probably not be able to claim any of your other expenses from your insurer. However, if we cancel following FOC instructions then we can usually get refunds on most monies we have paid out and we will, of course, offer to transfer your deposit to another tour or refund you in full. It is our recommendation that you don't cancel your booking with us ahead of this time as you probably won't be able to make a claim on our insurer for any losses (this will depend on the terms of your policy) and we won't be able to refund you if we can't sell your place to someone else. We are in the difficult position where we have to stick strictly to our terms and conditions during this crisis in order to protect the interests of all of our clients as a whole and Bailey Chinnery as a very small business. We hope you understand.
As is being widely publicised in the media, we are in the throes of a world-wide outbreak of the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) virus and this is having a serious effect on travel.
We are taking a responsible approach to this and recognise our clients will be concerned about the effect the outbreak might have on tours and workshops booked with us. We want to use this page to communicate our up to date policy and guidance to you. Detailed information on specific tours will be communicated by email to clients directly.
Our primary concern is always the health, safety and well-being of our clients. For that reason we are monitoring daily the official advice coming from the FCO (Foreign & Commonwealth Office) in the UK as well as direction and information from the World Health Organisation. Our decisions will not be based on media speculation.
If the FCO directs that travel to a specific country or region should cease we will comply immediately and cancel the tour. If the FCO issues this direction it is at this point that your travel insurance should take effect. Our terms and conditions will apply. (You can find a copy of our terms and conditions on every workshop page on our website). We will be happy to provide a copy of your invoice and covering letter for your insurance claim.
If you decide to cancel a tour or workshop with us due to the virus outbreak before such advice is issued by the FCO because of your own concerns, we will attempt to re-sell your place for you. If we are successful we will refund your deposit less our £100 admin fee. (this is our usual policy concerning cancellations). As per our terms and conditions, it is a term of your contract with us that you take out appropriate and adequate travel and health insurance for your booking. You may be able to make a claim on this, such as for flights booked.
If you feel you wish to cancel a tour or workshop, please contact us to discuss your options directly and we will do all we can to help.
As of 16.03.20 we have cancelled all tours up to and including 30.06.20 in line with the UK governments directive on ceasing all non-essential travel and social interaction. (Istanbul, Tuscany, Lanzarote & Valencia).
Further information can be found at the resources below: