Travel is here to stay, but unfortunately, COVID-19 hasn't gone anywhere either just yet. We still need to keep it in mind whenever travelling, because our health is at stake.
While some advice is common sense at this point—wear a mask, wash your hands, stay six feet apart from others—there are a hundred little precautions to think about, from the preferred method for loading travelers onto a bus to how luggage should be handled.
It's not something to stress about, however, as the Student & Youth Travel Association (SYTA) has created a handy travel toolkit for tour operators. The guide is specifically directed toward youth and student travel, yet its tips are useful for anyone planning and executing travels for groups of all kinds.
The COVID-19 Travel Toolkit is extensive and in-depth, but here are a few key pieces of advice from SYTA.
IN THE WORKPLACE
- Provide training and educational materials to staff.
- Communicate the importance of self-monitoring for symptoms.
- Provide more flexible leave policies to allow staff to take care of sick family members or stay home when sick.
- Be available to listen to workers' concerns.
- Ensure employees feel comfortable and safe coming into the office.
- Create a plan for worst-case scenarios, such as sick group participants.
- Review all health and safety guidelines with group leaders before the trip.
- Include those guidelines on final itineraries.
- Be prepared for any possible pre-screening by your destination.
- Regardless of who provides PPE, ensure everyone in the group has it and knows how to use it properly.
- Factor in extra sanitation time for all parts of the trips.
- Request health and safety guidelines from all vendors.
- Request keys be sorted and labeled with names, ready upon arrival.
- Keep travelers in a private room or outside while keys are distributed.
- Remind travelers that housecleaning will not be entering rooms daily unless specified.
- Develop a procedure to ensure minimum handling of luggage.
- Know what safety precautions drivers are required to abide by.
- Learn the luggage handling procedures, using gloves when possible.
- Ask about the daily cleaning schedule and factor it into trip times.
- Have a plan for loading and unloading, to maximize distance between travelers.
- Institute assigned seating if needed.
- Be prepared to wear masks the entire time you're in the airport and in flight.
- Travelers can now carry up to 12 ounces of hand sanitizer in a carry-on bag.
- Arrive earlier than usual, due to extra health checkpoints.
- Suggest travelers bring an empty water bottle, and possibly even their own food, to limit interactions with shops and flight attendants.
- Travel during less busy times to avoid rush hours.
- Encourage travelers to wear masks despite individual public transportation requirements.
- Emphasize the importance of social distancing.
- Check schedules and plan not just routes, but alternate routes.
To view SYTA's COVID-19 Student & Youth Travel Toolkit for Tour Operators in its entirety, see: https://bit.ly/3n5IA3Z
* This information is accurate at the time of publication.
Written by Josh Veal, Contributing Writer for Groups Today.
This article originally appeared in the Jan/Feb 2021 issue of Groups Today.