COVID-19 update: back to birding?
Updated: Sep 17, 2020
We sincerely hope you are staying safe and well.
We thought we would touch base now that the situation relating to Covid-19 is beginning to stabilise (for the time being, and at least in the UK and across much of Europe) and international travel is beginning to resume.
Over the past five months we have been monitoring the impact on the travel industry and the implications for future tours. From the emergence of the pandemic, we believed in proactive measures to keep our travellers safe, rescheduling trips that were not viable or that carried substantive risk, both to health and of significant disruption. As a result, we have several tours rescheduled from 2020 to 2021, and we continue to follow global developments to determine whether these will be able to operate to their new dates.
Like many of you, we are looking forward to the time we can start travelling again. We look forward to welcoming you back on our tours and are beginning to look at plans for the coming months and early part of 2021. We will be focusing on destinations that are, or become, exempt from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO advice against all but essential travel and which are additionally exempt from the requirement to self-isolate on return to the UK, as well as those without entry restrictions. These include Portugal, Spain, Estonia, Finland, Hungary and Malaysia. We have a redesigned website, and will be gradually posting NEW TOURS to these destinations over the coming weeks so keep an eye on our progress at www.bluetailbirding.com.
Following on from these, we will be looking more closely at current tour destinations in South Asia including Sri Lanka and Bhutan which have fared well with Covid-19 caseloads, in anticipation that they may be ‘open for business’ sooner than others.
Some of these countries do currently have entry restrictions, so we are planning for the future with cautious optimism. As the situation is constantly evolving, we will be guided by FCO advice.
Our policy for booking, deposits, tour operation and cancellation will be as follows:
We will take reservations for a future tour to a country with a travel advisory currently in place, in hope that restrictions will be lifted in coming months. For such destinations we will not request a deposit until the tour is deemed viable (a tour may be deemed viable for various reasons, such as the lifting of an FCO advisory, or that the minimum number of participants has been achieved). Simply email us to reserve your place.
For bookings on a tour to any country currently exempt from an FCO travel advisory we will request a deposit as usual. If the FCO subsequently amend their advice to advise against all but essential travel, we will cancel the tour and refund your deposit in full or credit it to a future date.
We will run any tour with operational status if non-essential travel to the tour destination remains permitted by the FCO. Cancellation charges will apply according to our Terms and Conditions.
Your health and safety, and that of our guides, ground agents and other service providers, is our top priority. We are fully aware how special your travels are to you and believe it is our responsibility to deliver a safe, successful and enjoyable experience when we are able to do so and when you feel comfortable to travel again; for some that time is already here, for others it may yet be a while away.
We will be posting our schedule for all of 2021 and where possible 2022 and hope we will be able to welcome you on a tour with us in the not too distant future. If there is any destination you would like to see us cover, don’t hesitate to ask!
Thank you for your continued support during a difficult time. If you have any questions or concerns, please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call on 07500 185058.
We personally have relatives, friends and acquaintances, both in India and in the UK, who have contracted Covid-19, and know that we have all been living under a shadow despite the summer sunshine. Our thoughts are with any of you who have been more personally affected by this situation.
Leio and Jen De Souza | bb
Want to get #backtobirding internationally? Here are some things to consider:
The current spread of Covid-19 at your destination: Quite obviously, the more cases the more chance you have of contracting the virus. This is addressed by the travel health advice mentioned above so you should take note of the countries exempt from the ‘all but essential’ travel advice and review the list frequently.
Are you at increased risk of becoming seriously ill from Covid-19: Depending on your age and underlying health conditions, and if you have been shielding at home, it may be more sensible to wait.
Do you live with someone at increased risk of becoming seriously ill from Covid-19: Even if you don’t show symptoms, you may pass the virus on to more vulnerable members of your family on return.
Does your destination have entry requirements or restrictions for travellers: Some countries, states or regions still have entry restrictions in place, require a period of mandatory self-quarantine on arrival, require a Covid-19 test before or on arrival, or the wearing of masks in public for example. You must ensure you will be permitted entry, and are aware of any procedures you will be required to follow on arrival. For good and continually updated advice by destination, consult the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice, US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html and World Health Organisation https://www.who.int.
Does your home country have entry requirements or restrictions for travellers returning from your destination: For example, if you are from the UK is your destination on the list of ‘travel corridors’ or will you be required to self-isolate on return.
No travel is risk-free: Many insurers have suspended all travel insurance sales. There are some insurers who offer some degree of Covid-19 cover, but you should review your travel insurance to ensure it covers a variety of cancellation scenarios related to Covid-19. Many insurers continue to exclude travel against government advice, so if your destination country is subject to a travel advisory against non-essential travel, you may not be able to arrange travel insurance and any existing policy may not cover you for anything if you choose to travel. Furthermore, many insurers will not pay out if your travel plans are made impossible due to changes in Covid-19-related travel advice for your destination, either before or during travel. As we have seen in recent weeks, this change in travel advice can be implemented at short notice. An important point to note is that no insurer will cover you if you choose not to travel, for example if you are concerned about rising cases at your destination but government advise does not warn against non-essential travel.
Be open-minded about possible disruption: You can expect that not everything will go 100% to plan as we all get used to new ways of working that incorporate social distancing, and countries make changes to counter ongoing infections.
Familiarise yourself with basic precautions and carry appropriate supplies: For good advice on basic precautions to reduce the chance of infection see https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19 and be sure to carry adequate supplies of face masks and a sanitiser containing at least 60% alcohol.