Coronavirus/COVID-19 UPDATE

Coronavirus/COVID-19 Update

Updated October 26, 2020

We Are Travelers

Taking precautions now so we can get back on the road again.

COVID-19 is posing challenges that few of us could even imagine and lasting for a far longer period of time. My update written weeks ago, and the weeks before that have already become inadequate or obsolete. I want to reassure you that in crisis as a company and as individuals, we remain true to our core values of honesty and integrity and we will get through this. We want to be fair to all who we work with, through every step of the process. Across society, all of us are reaching for the tools by which to cope. We ask your patience as we work to retain the best value possible for our clients who have lost their tours. We also have deep concern for our lodges, and all the people out of work to whom our visits meant a livelihood.

We know that the What If question is being asked often and we understand! We do however, have to keep up our work pace and meet our obligations if scheduled tours are going to proceed. Special conditions apply for our January to March tours.

For those with TAG ($100) deposits to hold space in hopes that a January to March tour will go, we will not collect further registration fees or trip payments in full until we know the trip can go. In most cases for USA trips we need to make a decision no later than 30 days out. That means invoices would be due 5 weeks out so we can get our providers paid on time. So if you count back from your start time, know that your decision date will be made not later than that time. For International Tours, we will keep you informed, generally a decision will need to be made by 60 days prior. These extended payment deadlines are a stretch, but these are trying times that call for maximum flexibility and we are willing to put the additional pressure on our office to get all done and keep your options open while staying as risk free as possible.

We want to reduce your risk. When we reach the decision date, you have the option to confirm, and you then make your trip payment. At that point know we cannot undo all reservations and stay fair to our hotels, guides, and activities. So if together we decide to move forward – we will work hard to protect your investment, but a general guideline for risk that you will take upon trip final payment during the COVID pandemic would be:
• $$ Full Value – rebook same tour on other dates for up to two years
• $$ 75% Flex Travel Coupon – bank your tour funds (adjusted for penalties we incur or payments we make to be fair to guides and vendors) and go where you wish for up to two years
• $$ Cash refund – 60% - 70% is possible, based on what we can negotiate with our service providers. This refund will be made at the end of the month you were to travel in to allow time for funds to be returned to our office.

We are also very much at work putting a strong 2021 calendar together. We understand that travel still feels uncertain, but also know that many travelers want a PLAN, something to look forward to. We will not take any tour final payment or send those on to our suppliers until we can confirm. We don’t want you risking funds and we do not want to return funds, your TAG can be moved if you prefer to any future adventure. We will also extend final payment due dates for any operating tour until such time we are assured they will go.

We have a TAG system in place now so you can hold a spot on January to March 2021 tours with just $100. Your TAG is only a placeholder. Due to timing we will move to full registration and trip payments for these January to March tours at one time, please see terms above. In general for International trips we need to make a decision two months out, though some destinations may let us go a bit longer. If you were on a tour that got rescheduled due to COVID pandemic, we will address the situation for your rescheduled trip beginning January 1, 2021. Prior to that time we simply do not have enough information to make informed decisions.

Our client’s health and safety are our main concern, and that of our colleagues that provide us services. Our office staff members are all working from home, so email is the best way to reach us. We do monitor phones and will get back to you.

At Naturalist Journeys, we retain a strong network of experienced suppliers in the field and we lean on our very good relations with them as we look for solutions. For almost all of our cancelled tours, we requested new booking which was a real help to them, strengthening our bonds. For all destinations, we are monitoring daily news updates, using professional consultants, and watching State Department and other government guidelines that affect travel.

We are not operating guided group tours in 2020 but we are booking clients on independent travel—mini-tours to places like Belize, Costa Rica, Arizona and the Galapagos Islands, with guiding, please ask us for details. We also now offer Covid-careful, Car-caravan birding tours in the USA where you bring or rent a car, and groups are limited to six persons total. Please ask us for details. We are pushing for much-needed testing, and we need medical advances in vaccine and treatment options. But we are impressed with how many of our lodges, small ships and guides have already stepped up with excellent ideas on how we move (cautiously) forward with safety protocols for our travelers that are ready to go, we can help you plan.

On March 14, 2020, many of the world’s airports became closed or were put on notice to close as nations grappled one by one issued travel bans. On March 19, the US issued unprecedented Level 4 State Department warnings for travel to all countries outside the U.S. These two criteria, airport closures and Level 4 State Department warnings, were factors in our risk management assessment and dictate that we cannot operate tours once these are in place. As these restrictions lift, and as the situation improves, and we alert you. And as conditions can change, for the near future we will work with providers on contingency plans and rescheduling options as needed. Initially, none of us imagined the alert would hold this long, but we understand now we are in for the long-haul. Better to stay in now, so we can GO! in the future.

We appreciate the enduring and strong support of our travelers, urging us to hang in there and be strong. We are a small, specialized, “boutique” company in the true sense, so our solutions may not mirror the giants of our industry. We are in contact with our partners and colleagues that have similar values, reputations, and goals. Together we will get through this. We treasure more than ever, our personal (and for the most part patient!) client base as we try to keep up with needs on both sides of the tour equation—being kind and generous with our providers as well. We recognize that if we don’t support them, our options will be fewer in the very special places we choose to go, in the future. We recognize we may not make everyone happy but we trust that all recognize in turn the complexity of the situation.

Are we optimistic? Yes, we are travelers. Whatever the new “normal” is, we will find a way to do what we love to do best. Ask about “Personal Pursuits” -about how you might book one of our tours for your family or small group of friends.

Please keep your eye on the horizon! As you prune those travel urges for now to stay healthy, please know that your communications of support have meant a lot to all of us, giving us pause to reflect on who we are and why we do this. For some, travel is a luxury to be immediately pruned. For us it is one of the greatest joys of life. We know that our joy brings vibrancy to local communities that in turn secure a healthy and protected place on the planet for wildlife. We all stand to lose a lot in this chaotic time, but perhaps the natural world is at greatest risk if we halt our desire to be in Earth’s wild places.

Nature right now is just what we need! Even a short walk now that summer is here does wonders. Share your stories—we are sharing ours on Facebook and through eNews—keeping our optimism alive.

Hang in there, we are intent on doing so as well, and we will keep communication open through this time.
— Peg Abbott, and the team at Naturalist Journeys

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