Tag Archives: travel safety

Leading Tour Operators Associations Set Tourcare Guidelines to Insure, Safe, Exceptional Travel Experiences

Wilderness Voyageurs bike tour heads out through Badlands National Park, South Dakota. Leading tour operators associations in the US, Canada and Europe have issued Tourcare Guidelines to inspire consumer confidence and insure safe, exceptional travel experiences © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

NEW YORK  – Leading tour operator associations in the US, Canada, and Europe have collaborated on a set of health and sanitization guidelines specifically for their tour operator members called TOURCARE Guidelines for Tour Operators.

Developed by the Canadian Association of Tour Operators (CATO), the European Tourism Association (ETOA), and the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA), the guidelines establish recommended procedures for tour operators to provide protection for travelers against the transmission of COVID-19. The full set of TOURCARE Guidelines for Tour Operators can be found at https://ustoa.com/covid19/tour-care-guidelines.

With travel bans limiting international travel, travelers are discovering exotic, exciting experiences and places to explore within their own borders and relying on travel professionals more than ever to provide a safe travel experience.

In announcing the guidelines, USTOA President and CEO Terry Dale, ETOA Chief Executive Tom Jenkins, and CATO Executive Director Pierre LaPage said jointly: “By their very nature, tour products are complex, involving many different variables that are under the watchful eye of the tour operator, yet not every element fully under their control. We felt that our members – and the tour operator industry as a whole – would benefit from one set of guidelines developed with their specific needs top-of-mind. The TOURCARE Guidelines will help our tour operator members fulfill their mission to safeguard the health and wellbeing of their passengers while continuing to provide exceptional travel experiences in destinations around the world.”

The TOURCARE Guidelines provide direction for tour operators across all touch-points of a trip – staff, suppliers, and passengers – to ensure that health and sanitization protections are in place for each stakeholder and the communities visited. Sanitization procedures recommended are those issued by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC), and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), as well as local governmental health authorities.

The guidelines include measures for training and sanitization for staff in contact with passengers while traveling, such as outfitting each with appropriate personal protection equipment and promoting physical distancing. 

Tour operators are encouraged to work with suppliers who comply with local health and government authority requirements, as well as employ touch-less solutions for ticketing and processing wherever possible.

Because travel is a shared experience, passengers, too, have certain responsibilities. TOURCARE Guidelines recommend that tour operators ask passengers to disclose their COVID-19 exposure prior to departure and agree to adhere to all recommended and required health and sanitization procedures including wearing of masks, gloves, and social distancing where appropriate.

Each association has shared the TOURCARE Guidelines with all tour operator members, along with the “TC” logo as a mark of compliance to display as appropriately on websites and other communication with suppliers, passengers, and travel advisors.

For more information on USTOA, visit www.ustoa.com; CATO at cato.ca, and ETOA at etoa.org.

Representing nearly $19 billion in revenue, the member companies of U.S. Tour Operators Association provide tours, packages and custom arrangements that allow 9.8 million travelers annually unparalleled access, insider knowledge, peace-of-mind, value and freedom to enjoy destinations and experiences across the entire globe. Each member company has met the travel industry’s highest standards, including participation in the USTOA’s Travelers Assistance Program, which protects consumer payments up to $1 million if the company goes out of business.  As a voice for the tour operator industry for more than 40 years, USTOA also provides education and assistance for consumers and travel agents.

CATO, the Canadian Association of Tour Operators represents the most respected companies with offices in Canada, operating tour programs and packages from Canada to international destinations, trans-border as well as inbound to Canada and intra-Canada.

The Association is composed of like-minded tour companies – represented by their owners and senior executives who speak not only for their respective companies, but just as importantly, for the industry.

ETOA is the trade association for tour operators and suppliers in European destinations, from global brands to local independent businesses. The membership includes tour and online operators, intermediaries and wholesalers, European tourist boards, hotels, attractions, technology companies and other tourism and business service providers.

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Hotels Embrace Industry-Wide Cleaning Standards Through “Safe Stay” Initiative; Launch #TakeMeBack Campaign

Mohonk Mountain House, a historic grand hotel resort in New York State’s Catskills Mountains. The American Hotel & Lodging Association has introduced Safe Stay, an industry-wide, enhanced standard of health and safety protocols designed to prepare America’s hotels to safely welcome back guests and employees as the economy reopens. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

WASHINGTON, D.C. –The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) introduced Safe Stay, an industry-wide, enhanced standard of health and safety protocols designed to prepare America’s hotels to safely welcome back guests and employees as the economy reopens. Safe Stay represents the top priority for the industry, the health and safety of guests and employees.

The standards of Safe Stay were developed under the guidance of an Advisory Council, comprised of industry leaders representing all segments of the hotel industry, and in conjunction with public health experts to advance best practices for protecting against the coronavirus. This initiative represents a new level of focus and transparency for an industry already built on cleanliness. Hotels have always met rigorous standards for cleaning and safety and these enhanced guidelines are rooted in recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

“Safe Stay was developed specifically to ensure enhanced safety for hotels guests and employees. While hotels have always employed demanding cleaning standards, this new initiative will ensure greater transparency and confidence throughout the entire hotel experience,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of AHLA. “The industry’s enhanced hotel cleaning practices, social interactions, and workplace protocols will continue to evolve to meet the new health and safety challenges and expectations presented by COVID-19.”

The “Safe Stay” guidelines are intended to be iterative, and will be revised as needed based on the recommendations of public health authorities, in compliance with any federal, state and local laws. They include guidance on the following:

  • Employee & guest health
  • Employee responsibilities
  • Cleaning products and protocols
  • Physical distancing

“The hotel industry maintains stringent standards for cleaning and safety, and the Safe Stay initiative helps to strengthen best practices to provide the healthy environments that travelers expect at hotels throughout the country,” said Ecolab. “Development of the Safe Stay initiative included guidance from Ecolab, a global leader in cleaning and disinfecting solutions and services that collaborates with the U.S. EPA, FDA, CDC, WHO and other organizations to help establish and promote best practice guidance, training and solutions.” For more than 90 years, Ecolab has partnered with the hotel industry to provide cleaner, safer and healthier environments for employees and guests.

“While the hotel industry was one of the first affected by the pandemic, we have collectively stepped up to serve their communities during this public health crisis.  Thousands of hotels across the country, more than half of those small businesses, are working tirelessly during this uncertain time to support their employees, healthcare workers and first responders. When the time is right, hotels will be ready to safely and eagerly welcome back America’s traveling public,” concluded Rogers.

The Safe Stay Advisory Council enhanced guidelines can be found at www.ahla.com/SafeStay

#TakeMeBack Campaign

AHLA has just launched the #TakeMeBack campaign to encourage travelers to remember their favorite hotel visits and travel experiences. 

There are three ways you can share your own favorite travel memory: 

  • Send a Virtual Postcard
    • Download one of AHLA’s pre-made postcards.
    • Share your postcard on social media using the #TakeMeBack hashtag, and challenge friends and colleagues to do the same by tagging them in the post.
  • Share a Vacation Photo
    • Share an old vacation photo, using the hashtag #TakeMeBack.
    • Tag the hotel property that you visited during that vacation, tag a friend or family member(s) that you traveled with, post your photo and challenge three friends or colleagues to participate.
  • Take AHLA’s Instagram Challenge
    • Follow AHLA on Instagram (@AmericanHotelAssociation) and participate in our #TakeMeBack “This or That Challenge” and tell us why you love to travel.
    • Screenshot the template “This or That” card off of AHLA’s Instagram story or visitAHLA.com/TakeMeBack to download the image.
    • Upload the image to your Instagram story and circle your preferences.
    • Tag three friends and the @AmericanHotelAssociation. 

Follow AHLA on social media (InstagramTwitterFacebookLinkedIn) and visit AHLA.com/TakeMeBack for the latest campaign details. Learn more about the campaign by clicking here

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Travel Insurance Company Offers Checklist of Precautions to Keep In Mind When Traveling

Visiting the Taj Mahal in Agra, India, one of the most popular attractions in the world. APRIL Travel Protection offers Americans tips on traveling abroad © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Visiting the Taj Mahal in Agra, India, one of the most popular attractions in the world. APRIL Travel Protection offers Americans tips on traveling abroad © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

MIAMI, FL – As a travel insurance company, APRIL Travel Protection may not take sides in partisan conflicts, but it cannot ignore the harsh realities of the world as it strives to keep Americans safe when traveling domestically and abroad. APRIL has compiled a checklist of simple precautions travelers should keep top-of-mind when on vacation.

“It is imperative that travelers are educated on how to remain safe when vacationing in a world that is becoming increasingly volatile,” said Jason Schreier, CEO of APRIL USA.

Reports of hate crimes on the rise throughout the U.S. and a new State Department advisory warning against European travel are unlikely to deter Americans from vacationing. Traditionally, travel agents look out for their clients’ best interests, ensuring they are properly informed and adequately protected. This is one of the many reasons APRIL recommends using a trusted travel counselor.

“Travel agents are often the vacationer’s first line of defense, playing a crucial role in keeping clients safe,” noted Schreier.

“It’s not our role to influence or pass judgment on the political process in America, but regardless of personal opinions on Trump’s presidency, travel counselors recall the anti-American sentiments prevalent during the George W. Bush administration. They are therefore cognizant of shifting perceptions of Americans internationally,” explained Schreier. “Likewise, travel agents assisting members of the LGTB community will advise clients on the dangers they may face in destinations where intolerance is commonplace, often steering them away from potentially dangerous areas in favor of destinations which are more welcoming.”

Vacationing is a staple of American society and one of the primary ways Americans enrich themselves culturally. World events should not deter one from traveling, but vacationers need to be aware of their vulnerabilities and protect themselves accordingly.

Purchasing a comprehensive travel protection policy is the best way to protect one’s vacation investment. Following are a few additional common-sense precautions of which travelers should be mindful when visiting less familiar destinations:

  1. Be aware of your surroundings. This may seem like a no-brainer, but in many cities, travelers average 10 pedestrian miles or more per day as they take in all the sights and sounds of their destination. It’s easy to get distracted and wander off-course. Many travelers actively leave the beaten path in search of more authentic cultural experiences, while some are lured outside of established tourist zones by nightlife or bargain shopping districts. Knowing which areas are safe is crucial. Most Americans know which areas to avoid in their own cities, but many take their safety for granted when traveling in distant locales. Identifying safe zones and staying within those boundaries should be a top priority. Travel agents and hotel staff can be a valuable resource in this regard.
  2. Carry a working mobile phone. Global cellular coverage is a lot better than it used to be 10 years ago. And while roaming charges vary based on carrier, U.S. cell phones will generally operate throughout most of North America as well as many overseas destinations. For travelers who anticipate significant usage, a pre-paid phone or SIM card-or a supplemental talk, text and data plan on their existing phone-may prove prudent, but at a minimum, travelers should carry a working mobile phone at all times. The temptation to disconnect when on vacation may be strong, but operational pay phones are increasingly difficult to find in the case of an emergency.
  3. Ask your hotel concierge to arrange a taxi. In most American cities, the taxi and livery industry is tightly regulated. This is not always the case internationally. When traveling in a region where taxi oversight may be lax, a hotel concierge can recommend a reputable company. If a return trip is anticipated, get a card from the driver and use the same taxi company for the ride back to the hotel.
  4. Travel in groups. Travel packages are often priced based on double occupancy accommodations, but a single occupancy surcharge is particularly common in the mature market. But while FIT or independent travel may be the dominant trend these days, depending on one’s destination, solo vacationers may be wise to consider an escorted tour package. Even for traveling duos, the temptation to split up to pursue individual interests is natural. The husband’s going to impose limits on shopping for shoes and accessories, while spending hours at the pub is bound to try the wife’s patience. There may be instances when it becomes necessary to divide and conquer. In these moments, stick to heavily populated public areas. Statistically, criminals are more likely to prey on individuals than groups.
  5. Let it go. As Americans, we often engage our freedom to speak out against racism, religious intolerance and discrimination. And while one shouldn’t turn a blind eye when observing a crime, if one is the target of a racial slur or other form of discrimination, knowing when to take a stand and when to walk away is vital. When traveling in an unfamiliar environment, a “cooler heads” mindset can help avoid unnecessary conflict escalation.

Observing common-sense precautions can help reduce the likelihood of an incident during one’s vacation, but even the most mindful traveler can be inconvenienced or worse through no fault of their own. In these cases, a comprehensive travel insurance policy can help mitigate the impact of such an occurrence on one’s vacation.

‘Stress Less’ Benefits

APRIL stands out in the marketplace by offering clear and easy-to-understand agreements that make sense for today’s traveler. Additionally, all policies sold by APRIL and its partners feature “instant adjudication” through its signature ‘Stress Less’ Benefits – a ground-breaking feature which allows policyholders to enjoy their vacation without having to worry about out-of-pocket expenses in an emergency caused by severe weather, natural disasters or a wide range of potential issues including injury, sickness, death, job loss or relocation, military duty, terrorism, strikes, supplier default and more.

As the first insurance company to provide this progressive benefit to U.S. policyholders, APRIL offers instant adjudication for applicable inconveniences that can’t be predicted in advance, including emergency medical coverage up to $250,000 (with no deductible), trip interruption covering up to 150% of your trip’s cost, and evacuation benefits up to $500,000. Cancellations are eligible for reimbursement of 100% of their trip costs.

“This means you don’t have to pay out of pocket, endure a ton of paperwork and then wait months to find out how much your policy will actually cover,” explained Schreier.

At the core of APRIL’s efforts to communicate with policyholders is its pro-active approach to keeping up travelers’ evolving needs. A multi-lingual team and 24/7 toll-free access is available from most destinations along with other convenient support channels from Skype to texting, email and live chat. APRIL is the first company to pioneer these support methods for American travelers.

APRIL Travel Protection is owned by APRIL, an international group with 45 operational companies in more than 40 different countries, serving more than six million policyholders worldwide.  APRIL is listed on Euronext Stock Exchange and has yearly sales of more than $1.1 billion.

The company’s U.S. division is supported by American Modern Insurance Group (an AM Best A+ rated carrier) as its preferred underwriter and is headquartered at 11900 Biscayne Blvd. Suite 600, Miami, FL, 33181.

Visit www.AprilTravelProtection.com to learn more.

 

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Austin Adventures Relaxes Its Cancellation Policy for Overseas Travel

Austin Adventures is relaxing its trip cancellation policy to allow for a “no questions asked” full refund up to 14 days prior to departure. This new policy applies to the ground portion of all of its multisport, cycling, hiking and cultural adventures in Europe.
Austin Adventures is relaxing its trip cancellation policy to allow for a “no questions asked” full refund up to 14 days prior to departure. This new policy applies to the ground portion of all of its multisport, cycling, hiking and cultural adventures in Europe.

BILLINGS, MTTaking a cautious but determined approach to recent tragic events in Brussels, one leading adventure travel tour operator is pro-actively addressing current and future Europe-bound clients’ concerns about traveling during uncertain times.  Aware that travelers may be uneasy at this time to plan European travels, Austin Adventures  is relaxing its trip cancellation policy to allow for a “no questions asked” full refund up to 14 days prior to departure.

This new policy applies to the ground portion of all of Austin Adventures’ multisport, cycling, hiking and cultural adventures for both adults and families in Europe. Countries visited by Austin Adventures include Austria, Croatia, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Macedonia, Scotland, Slovenia and Spain. The standard policy is a 90 day cutoff for full refund (less a small handling fee) due to cancellation.

“Our guests’ safety, enjoyment and wellbeing are our top priorities,” explains Dan Austin, founder and president of Austin Adventures (http://www.austinadventures.com/). “That’s why we have increased our vigilance and communications on the ground in Europe and have decided to address booking concerns with a relaxed cancellation policy. While we encourage travelers to consider Europe as a destination, we don’t want to add any additional stress to the equation.”

In Europe, program director Ron van Dijk is utilizing his lifetime of local connections and resources to monitor and stay on top of any safety concerns. “Our hearts go out to all those impacted by the terrorist events in Brussels. But if we stop traveling, change our day to day activities, or avoid Europe all together, in essence we’ve given them the victory they seek.”

Austin and van Dijk point to a recent article by Katia Hetter for CNN entitled “Travel Advisories: What does ‘exercise vigilance’ mean?” as helpful in understanding the true risks and what can be done to stay informed and secure when abroad. See: http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/24/travel/travel-advisory-exercise-vigilance-feat/index.html.

Along with revised booking policies, the Austin Adventures team of trip planners and consultants also can help explain available travel insurance options, coverages and limitations. They also advise U.S. citizens to register with the U.S. State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), so they can be kept abreast of travel alerts and warnings. See: https://step.state.gov/step/

Based in Billings, MT, Austin Adventures (formerly Austin-Lehman Adventures) has spent more than 40 years building an international reputation as a provider of scheduled small group tours and customized trips to all seven continents. Recently, Austin Adventures joined the Xanterra Parks & Resorts® portfolio of experiential leisure offerings that includes operations in Grand CanyonYellowstoneZionCrater LakeGlacierRocky Mountain and Petrified Forest National Parks; Mount Rushmore National MemorialFurnace Creek Resort in Death Valley National Park; and five Ohio State Park Lodges as well as the Geneva Marina at Ohio’s Geneva State Park. Xanterra Parks & Resorts also owns and operates Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Va., the Grand Canyon Railway and Hotel in Williams, Ariz., the Grand Hotel in Tusayan, Ariz., Windstar CruisesVBT Bicycling and Walking VacationsCountry Walkers and Austin Adventures.

For information, call 800-575-1540, email info@austinadventures.com, or visit /www.austinadventures.com.
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