Greetings fellow travelers,
I am reaching out today with my personal insights on a serious topic, a topic that is clearly top of mind for us all. Obviously, I am talking about the coronavirus (COVID 19). As an active traveler myself (just back from Mexico and now headed out this weekend to Calgary Alberta) and a trusted expert on adventure travel for some 30 years now, my phone (and email) has been ringing off the hook for my personal insights on the current and forecasted impact of this latest Virus affecting us all. In the next few lines, I am going to do my best to address this unfortunate situation. Please keep in mind I am NOT a doctor nor an expert on such viruses. That said, I do feel I am qualified to speak to what it means to us here at Austin Adventures and our travelers. I do so to help our travelers make informed decisions.
First, a shameless plug for why using a respected Travel Professional is always a great start. Why? It is without question our #1 priority to keep all of our travelers (and staff) safe and out of harm’s way at all times. This is our commitment without fail to do whatever it takes to keep you safe and make decisions every day to do just that. Far beyond today’s Virus concerns, we work tirelessly 24 hours a day to evaluate a wide range of ever-changing conditions. We do so by staying on top of the details and educating ourselves at a level most might find daunting. We have an extensive network of tools and experts (often on the ground) that we communicate with 24 hours a day, every day.
Now in an honest and sincere attempt to calm travel fears without making light of a serious subject. Last time I checked, we do not have a crystal ball, and no one knows where we will be in 30-60-90 days. While I remain confident, the real experts are working diligently to get this situation under control, and it will not adversely affect our summer adventures. To this end, we are starting by implementing an immediate “lightened” cancellation policy. Effective immediately, any booked traveler with Austin Adventures has the “right” to postpone any adventure and transfer or apply all associated AA related expenses to another adventure either at a different destination or future date without penalty. No questions asked. Call it Peace of Mind Insurance. These changes must be requested at least 45 days before scheduled travel. An escrow account can be set up without having to commit to where or when. Period! We are suggesting holding off booking air travel until we get closer to travel dates, interestingly enough this could have the benefit of reduced airfares. You might also consider “Cancel for any reason” Trip insurance offered by our carrier Trip Mate. Its an added expense but might give you that peace of mind you are looking for. https://scenicgroup.tripmate.com/main/trip-cancellation-and-cancel-for-any-reason/
Now a few of my personal thoughts. No disrespect to the media, none intended, it seems to sensationalize is the rule of the day. We live in a world of 24 hours instant “news bulletins” coming at us from every direction. While I feel the benefit of this instant and the constant barrage of “news” benefits far outweigh any negatives, it does create an environment of “needing” content. In the process, we get pounded from all directions. The key is sorting through and looking at and for facts. This isn’t our first “virus scare,” we lived through SARS, EBOLA, Mad Cow, Swine Flu, to name a few. And we will see this latest scare play out in time.
By the nature of “our style” of adventure travel, we feel we are at a lower risk than some may think. We are not “Big Group Tours.” We are avoiding crowds at every turn. We want to get you out and in the backcountry, out on the trails, and into the fresh air! Ironically this current situation and associated travel restrictions from a wide range of countries around the world will have the unintended effect of fewer crowds (especially from the international travel community) in our National Parks and other iconic destinations. (I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy 😉)
Please keep in mind travelers and the dollars they spend is not only our lifeblood but many of the communities we visit. The ripple effect of fewer travelers can (and will) have a devastating impact on small communities around the globe (including right here at home). We remain committed to making educated decisions and doing our part to not overreact and yet take the precautions warranted. As of this writing, we have only one destination (out of 80 plus) adversely affected with preliminary travel restrictions in place and we are watching closely. We have contingency plans in place and will be ready with a “Plan B” should the need materialize.
While I could go into all the reasons why I personally think traveling is still a safe bet and where I see this all going in the weeks ahead, that would be in poor taste. It is serious, and we should take it seriously. I only advocate we do not overreact and make informed decisions.
All that said, thank you for listening, thank you for your years and years of support. This, too, shall pass, and in the meantime, please do not hesitate to reach out anytime.
Updated March 2, 2020