The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the world, bringing death and economic hardship among many other disruptions. But there are encouraging signs in some locations and a return to rowing and to travel has begun. What does this mean for Rowing The World trips? This post serves as an update to our first Covid-19 post on 11 March which was updated on 27 April.
Rowing and travel are restarting
Borders are starting to open with tourists encouraged to visit some destinations, carefully. The tourism and hospitality industries worldwide are under siege and there is pressure to save these businesses. In other destinations visitors are not yet welcome. Travel can be further complicated or discouraged by travel advisories, few flights and quarantine requirements upon arrival or return. Epidemiological forecasts, the status of testing, contract tracing and rates of infection vary widely. There is an overload of information, sometimes confusing and contradictory.
In most countries the return to rowing is slow and with restrictions. Protocols have been developed by national federations as well as individual clubs for cleaning, types of boats allowed, numbers permitted at the boathouse at any one time, etc. These vary globally and locally and are also evolving. For example, in many locations only singles are permitted for the moment. Many regattas and events are cancelled.
Each of us is figuring out what we are and will be comfortable with in terms of both rowing and travel, within the framework of what is possible. I believe that many of us are on a bit of a roller-coaster, at one minute feeling overwhelmed and concerned, maybe fearful, then at another instant being buoyed up by good news somewhere and the hope that some form of rowing travel is imminent.
Many are happy to predict the future and speculate on what the “new normal” will be and when it will happen. I am not. I track what Destination Management Organizations (DMOs) are saying especially here in Canada and in the countries where we run trips. Our partners keep us updated on the local rowing situation. We pay attention to organizations such as Adventure Travel Trade Association and travel thought leaders like Skift. We check periodically what is trending in groups on LinkedIn and a few other trusted sources, and how people are responding on our social media feeds.
What is clear is that a desire to travel remains strong but there are concerns. There will be ongoing uncertainty and often rapidly changing circumstances. So this is our current perspective – stay tuned for future updates.
Big variations in our different destinations
It is literary all over the map when we look at the destinations where we run our trips. We understand that Australia will not allow international travel, except perhaps to New Zealand, for 2020. Here in Canada, the return to travel will be slow and cautious. Destination British Columbia has outlined a gradual expansion to travel, beginning with local only right now. Interprovincial may not occur before September and longer for international visitors. The Canadian government still has a worldwide advisory against non-essential travel, with no indication of when that will be lifted. The land border with the United States is closed until at least 21 June.
On the other hand, borders are opening in Europe, but with many variations. For example, travel without quarantine will be possible to Italy beginning 03 June from Schengen countries and from 15th June from all countries. Greece is also opening up its borders to tourists, whereas travel to France remains restricted until at least 15 June. The notion of country travel bubbles is being discussed – agreements by which the citizens of two countries such as the United Kingdom and France are not required to quarantine, while travellers arriving from other countries must. If there is a spike in cases, travel could be restricted. Ongoing improvements could accelerate the lifting of restrictions
What does this mean for our 2020 trips?
Our approach remains the same as we announced in March. We will make trip by trip decisions. The following will be taken into account:
- Border status, quarantine requirements and government policy on travel and tourism at the trip destination.
- Country of origin for the guests on a trip, and particularly if travel advisories are in effect.
- Availability of our planned accommodation and key services.
- Club, provincial/state and national policies on rowing, particularly boat size.
- Managing physical distancing with transportation, restaurants as well as rowing.
We are developing protocols for discussion with our partners regarding cleaning, disinfecting, codes of conduct should a trip look possible. What responsibilities will our guests have to undertake? There is a lot to consider. Fortunately, we have access to some excellent tourism and rowing resources to assist us.
I am not going to predict which trips will run or not in 2020. Instead we are preparing for a range of scenarios and will make our best decisions on a case by case basis. Each guest will need to make their own best decisions, should we decide to run a trip.
Beginning to plan for 2021
We are getting requests for next year, which is wonderful. The travel situation is too fluid to make any decisions and announcements yet. Trips cancelled in 2020 will be replicated, if possible, in 2021. Anyone registered this year will automatically be guaranteed their spot next year.
Announcements may begin as early as June. Our popular Early Booking Special may be offered in some format for any new destinations and departures. It is my belief that the uncertainty of 2020 will continue well into 2021. Our planning and registration processes will take that into account.
The advantage of rowing travel
Research by travel organizations suggest that in North America, what people are seeking in travel in the short and medium term has changed. Closer destinations away from crowds is desired. People want nature and outdoor activity with like-minded companions. We are fortunate that our trips meet these characteristics, taking small groups to off the beaten track destinations where we are outside and active most of the day. We share a common passion. Let’s keep our rowing travel dreams alive.