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Travelling in a post-COVID world: your questions answered

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The world has changed hugely in the last 12 months, and understanding what the future of travel looks like isn’t easy. From whether you’ll need to wear a face mask on holiday and whether prices will rise to which destinations will come back first, Explore’s Managing Director John Telfer answers some of your most-asked questions about the return of travel. 

Can I still travel in a group?

Yes, absolutely. Travelling in a small group is one of the safest and most secure ways to travel. Explore’s groups average just twelve people – small enough to get right into the destinations we’re visiting, but big enough that you’re bound to be travelling with some likeminded individuals.  

For those that prefer to travel just with close family or a friendship group, our programme of private tours, exclusive group trips and self-guided holidays will be popular in 2021 as it enables people to remain within their existing bubbles. 

Will I have to wear a mask on my holiday?

Just like when you’re at home, there’ll be certain situations in which masks are recommended or advised, for example on flights or public transport. This may, and probably will, change as we go through 2021, so we’ll be updating our COVID-19 entry requirements continually to ensure you have the latest advice and that you can book and travel with confidence.  

Will I need to have had a vaccination against COVID-19?

It’s likely that, from 2021, some countries, airlines and tours will require evidence of COVID-19 vaccination before you travel. At the moment it’s not a requirement of our tours, nor of travel insurance providers, but some destinations already require a recent negative COVID test, or even a live test on arrival. As the vaccination is rolled out, it’s likely that having proven immunity will replace some of this testing. Together with our partners and tour leaders on the ground, we are keeping very close to this as it develops and will update customers as things change.

We also recommend that you follow the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) advice for travel to your chosen destination, and sign up for their updates.

What if the FCDO changes its advice for the country I’m visiting?

Just as we have done throughout 2020, Explore’s expert team will be working hard with international and local bodies and organisations to ensure we are up to date with the latest advice for all countries and destinations that we visit. If the FCDO changes its advice against travel to a destination, we will not operate a trip there – and customers will have the chance to change their booking or request a refund. 

Following months of turbulent changes to air corridors and FCO advice, travellers are – now more than ever – seeking reassurance that their booking is protected if advice changes. We recognise that our Explore’s 10-day no-fee flexibility and COVID-19 refund promise continue to be of huge reassurance to our customers, and we’ll be continuing those policies throughout 2021. 

How did Explore manage to keep refunding customers when so many companies didn’t?

Explore continued to offer refunds where requested throughout 2020 for cancelled and rearranged trips. We are lucky to be a small company that is part of a bigger organisation, and so we are in a position to be able to continue providing security for trips booked with us. We were recognised by the consumer champion Which? for doing the right thing by our customers – something that has been a driving principle of Explore for 40 years – and we stand by these values. 

Will holiday prices rise after COVID-19?

It is difficult at this stage to predict how trip prices might be affected but some increase is very possible. The Coronavirus pandemic and global travel restrictions will likely mean additional capacity constraints. Destinations that are pronounced safe and open to travel will see additional demand, while many countries will also see an increase in domestic tourism from residents. Some accommodations and boats might reduce their capacity to ensure safe distancing, and airline schedules may remain reduced, meaning flight capacity is lower. There are then additional uncertainties around foreign exchange rates. 

However, Explore continues to offer a price guarantee. When you book a trip with us, even for 2021 or 2022, that price is held and you won’t pay any more. The price when you book is the price you’ll pay, with an absolute no-surcharge guarantee.

Will I be able to get travel insurance?

New insurance policies have been created by the travel industry to include COVID-19 related claims, increasing customer confidence and – along with rapid testing now available at airports, and our COVID-19 refund promise – travellers can book trips in confidence that, should they not be able to travel or need to return early, they are protected.  

Our recommended travel insurance provider Campbell Irvine offers policies that include cover for COVID-19. 

Where will be the most popular destinations for travel in 2021?

We expect that European destinations will be even more popular in 2021. Ease of travel, direct flights and robust healthcare systems plus familiarity means that Europe is a natural choice for many travellers. Our new programme of UK trips is also in demand as many people plan to stay closer to home in the short term. 

That’s not to say that people won’t be travelling long haul, though. We are seeing bookings return to many further flung destinations later in the year, from Costa Rica and Argentina to Vietnam and Botswana.

More generally, we anticipate that there will be a tendency for some to veer away from bustling cities and densely populated areas in favour of more space and natural environments. Our active trips, walking and cycling tours and self-guided holidays, are proving very popular for 2021 – not least because many people have become so much more active during the various lockdowns.

Will the sustainability of travel become more important?

Travel is unlikely to be as it was for some time – cities and famous sites will be less crowded, the skies will be less busy and people are more likely to opt for greener holidays. We’ve seen demand for walking and cycling holidays spike. While the tourism industry has suffered greatly, it has forced us all to slow down and appreciate the huge privilege that travel is. Travel is likely to become more conscious – people taking fewer, longer trips rather than lots of short breaks. They’ll be more appreciative of the places and the people they meet and less impulsive with last-minute trips and spending. 

Explore’s sustainability strategy is at the very heart of the company. Doing the right thing is a driving principle of Explore, and we strive to build back better. At the start of 2020 we launched a carbon offsetting programme that meant all of our trips are now carbon neutral. We also used a (hopefully!) once-in-a-lifetime opportunity when no groups were travelling to further develop our sustainability strategy and write a new Animal Protection Policy.   

 

Ready to get travelling again?

Make up for the travelling you missed in 2020 with one of our exciting tours. We've made sure our small group tours are safe so you can get socialising again as you get away from your four walls, or stick with your bubble while you travel on a self-guided or private tour, or an exclusive group trip.
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