Click on the questions below for our latest thoughts and updates on planning in the time of Covid.
Is it safe to travel now? Is it even possible? I can’t keep up. What’s the picture?
The picture at the moment is constantly and rapidly changing. There are countries which you can visit with very little restriction, depending on your nationality or where you’re coming from. There are others where non-essential travel is possible, but with certain rules and requirements for entry. There are countries where it’s effectively or absolutely impossible to travel at the moment, and still others which you can visit freely but after which you’ll have to quarantine when you return home. As a general rule, restrictions around the world are slowly but surely reducing, but in practise it’s hard to have confidence in any specific situation, since second waves, spikes or reciprocal arrangements can see closures or requirements suddenly slammed into effect. Which makes planning and travelling a risk-laden affair for the foreseeable future.
If I can travel, is it fun when I get there? Is it responsible? Is it worth the risk?
These are relative questions which each person would answer differently. The answers also differ greatly from one country to another, one trip to another. There are always risks and trade-offs to consider when planning travel, but never more so than now. Many of our planning team live in the countries in which they plan, and can give first-hand, accurate and up-to-date reports on life on the ground right now. There is remarkably little tourism taking place around the world, which means some places are shut, others are wide open, and others, to be frank, in desperate need of income. However, no one wants to put themselves or their family at risk, and no one wants to be a vector towards others.
Bottom line: can I call you to plan a new trip for 2020?
Call us and we’d like nothing more than to have a frank discussion with you. We are not currently encouraging travel for 2020, since we’re not convinced that the balance of fun, responsibility and risk can be safely achieved. However, we still have trips scheduled to leave later in the year to various countries around the world, and we would love nothing more than to see them go ahead. To that end, we review the situation constantly, and as a general rule, we will always err on the side of caution and care. However, by the time you finish reading this, the ever-evolving situation may already have ever-evolved some more, and opened up new possibilities.
So how is Trufflepig handling planning for 2021 and 2022? What about the idea that some hotels or suppliers might end up closing before the trip takes place?
Fair question. The answer is, just as before Covid, that each trip is different. We plan from scratch. That means that in every case we’re assessing the options and taking into account where we need to leave things open, remain flexible, or perhaps put two solutions in place. That’s fine, and part of our normal approach. Our suppliers are also fully aware of the situation. This is where having long-standing business relationships built on trust really works for all sides, just as we saw in early 2020 when we had to unwind many hundreds of trips. To be precise, for trips in 2021 and 2022, we’re not putting non-refundable money down on travel arrangements booked for the distant future, for situations where neither we nor the supplier can be 100% confident that things will transpire as planned. Flexibility, late payment, and cancellation terms designed to encourage planning are the name of the game.
2020’s a write-off for me. But should I be planning my 2021 travel now? What about 2022?
In short, if you’d like to travel internationally next year, assuming it were possible, then we’d say yes, start planning now. You don’t have to buy into the notion that real logistical solutions will be found by summer 2021 – it’s just a question of imagining the two outcomes and balancing opportunity cost. If you plan travel for 2021 and the pandemic continues to rage, your trip can be adjusted, postponed or in many cases (though not all) cancelled at no cost to you (see below). However, if you don’t plan until we get some sort of All Clear, at that point you’ll find many of the better travel options will have been snaffled up by others. Furthermore, taking longer to plan a trip, to prepare and to anticipate always makes travel better. Plan a trip to Italy for 2022 and you have time to learn Italian. It’s a fundamental principle at Trufflepig that travel is better when you’re prepared, and now we all have time on our side.
Of course, you could also simply decide to hold off for another year or so for your international travel, and we’d heartily applaud you. Travel should be a privilege not a habit, and there are plenty of other ways to spend one’s time, just as there’s lots to see and do at home.
What if I book a trip for, say, Spring 2021 and it ends up being impossible – what are cancellation policies like, and what insurance can I buy?
For now the insurance companies are not being particularly helpful as regards water-tight travel policies which enable you to book travel confidently, and know that, if you have to cancel owing to Covid-related reasons, that they will make you whole. So instead, our Terms & Conditions allow for late non-refundable payments wherever our suppliers have the same conditions in place. With the very occasional exception of certain safari camps or uncommonly small properties with uncommonly high demand, you will therefore not be putting non-refundable money down for a 2021 trip until you know it’s going to take place. The idea is to plan now; watch the evolving situation; make final payment when you’re 100% sure you’ll be travelling, either when logistical solutions are found (eg a vaccine) or very shortly before the trip.
How did Trufflepig handle cancellations and postponements for the trips you had planned for 2020?
When Covid hit we had the lion’s share of our trips for 2020 all planned, paid up and ready to roll. We also had a bullet proof and time-tested set of Terms & Conditions to protect both us and our clients during the normal course of business. But pretty quickly we ripped those up, and in place of a wasp’s nest of small print and legalese, we used our values, relationships and sense of fairness to guide us. Correction, we used our sense of Fair + 1. We postponed, cancelled, refunded, credited, rearranged, explained, negotiated, and in the course of many, many thousands of conversations, we had about 5 arguments, and none of those with clients. So this is our non scientific, imprecise, but entirely human and meaningful way of saying that we know what fairness looks like, and our record speaks for itself.
I’m worried about having to quarantine on my return home. Are there any ways to predict what might suddenly become necessary, or ways to avoid such a problem?
Quarantining on your return home is in many cases the primary discouragement from planning and taking international travel at the moment. When it’s required by law, there is no way around it, and in the current circumstances, that legal requirement can be lifted or imposed at extremely short notice. So, to be frank, if it’s a deal-breaker (as it is in many cases) then don’t think about travelling right now. However, you can contemplate and plan travel for 2021 and 2022, on the assumption that you’ll only be taking the trip if the reason for quarantining is no longer even applicable.
Aside from the whole COVID situation, I’m new to Trufflepig and simply wondering how you work. I have questions that aren’t answered here. Where can I look?
You’re reading our Covid W.T.FAQ, intended to answer questions specific to the problems of planning in the time of Covid. We really look forward to taking this section down. For our normal modes of functioning, you can look at our How It Works section, or at our Common Questions. Or email us on email@example.com.
Will my travel dollars go to those who need it most? How can I use my travel dollars to support a version of tourism that is good for all?
Great question. Considerations of the impact of our trips and of the money that goes into them has always been front and centre of our planning process. Our approach has always been that our trips must be beneficial for the three ‘stakeholders’: the client, the environments in which we operate, and the Trufflepig community (including our staff as well as our partners and suppliers). That means working with smaller locally-owned businesses; it means directing what tourism traffic we produce away from the over-visited hot spots to the lesser known places where the dollars are more welcome, more helpful, and have less negative impact. It means taking into consideration the questions of C02 emissions and of pollution, as well as of cultural impact and social equality. We actively encourage you to engage in these questions with us, and get involved in them as part of the planning of your trip. Even if you don’t, you can be sure that we are thinking in these terms as we work hard to produce a trip that will answer your request, and more.
You’re a travel company but you’re not running any trips. What are you doing with your time?
After 17 years of running trips around the world, one thing we have is a lot of contacts, and so a great deal of 2020 has been spent talking with our clients, our suppliers, our partners and even – gasp – our competitors. Aside from the obvious challenges of managing a travel business in a total travel shut-down (while home-schooling), we’ve tried to identify the opportunities arising from an imposed lull in activity and a pause for reflection. We’ve identified, encouraged and joined a number of carefully selected groups and affiliations working to tackle the problems of leisure travel’s negative impacts on the global climate and on local environments, as well as to encourage the beneficial outcomes tourism can create for fragile eco-systems and cultures. We’re going through the B-Corps assessment process. We’re doing lots of engineering work backstage (read: computer systems). We have been reading, shooting photographs, and writing (check out our magazine, The Sounder). We’re a Trufflepig, after all; we don’t sit still very well.