COVID-19: The Big Questions Answered

Here’s the latest intelligence we have on the travel situation, what we’re doing to support and protect our travellers and our policies on COVID-19 and future travel.

As the curve begins to flatten and countries begin to open up, you’re probably asking when you will be able to travel again – and if you are already due to travel, what to expect when you do.

We all need to be prepared for what the ‘new normal’ will be as well as to understand the implications of booking travel for the future.

We’ve put together responses to the key questions you have below, including the key travel intelligence you need so that your travel imagination can take flight.

What exactly is Blue Sky Escapes doing to protect travellers and travel partners?

 

It is, above all, our duty of care to ensure that we have established policies and protocols to make sure that our travellers, and travel partners, remain safe, at all stages of the journey.

  • Before you travel, we’ll make sure that all guides and staff members you meet complete health declarations, and create contingency planning for vetted medical facilities
  • All properties and ground partners are screened in line with our COVID-19 safety protocols.
  • Travellers are also required to complete health declarations before their journey begins.
  • We’re providing face masks and hand sanitisers for each traveller.
  • Deep cleaning and sanitisation of accommodation and transport is carried out and frequent temperature checks for staff are in place. During the journey, your travel consultant will provide 24/7 support for any issue (no matter how small) that might come up.

All of this means that your journey experience will be as safe as practically possible – for both travellers and ground partners.

I keep hearing about “safety protocols”. What are they, and are they meaningful?

 

Safety protocols do indeed sound a bit abstract.

But, in fact these are real, tangible actions that are taken and done every day, which will close off vectors of viral transmission. These are recommended by health authorities, so we think they’re meaningful.

Here’s a selection of some of the practices we look out for:

  • Contactless check-in
  • The use of PPE by staff and partners
  • In-room dining options at hotels
  • Layout of tables and chairs in common areas
  • No buffets as standard
  • Regular deep cleaning of rooms and transport
  • Strict application of social distancing measures
  • Temperature checks for both travellers and ground partners
  • Cashless payment options
  • Hand sanitiser stations in accommodation

Why is booking through a travel company safer than arranging my own travel?

 

Travel companies, such as ours, benefit from resources and networks of influence that the typical traveller does not have access to.

In fact, we have our own travel risk team and are constantly monitoring the rapid-breaking news cycles, which means that we are pro-actively able to respond to changing situations.

Our affiliations with international travel networks and close contact with ground partners provides us with real time information on all of our destinations – a mudslide in Bhutan, protests in Cape Town, locust swarms in India, you name it.

Through our partnerships with 1,800 of the world’s best experiential travel providers and properties, travellers count on us to help them access inside experiences away from crowds and VIP amenities at curated properties such as free room upgrades, early check-in/late check-out and spa/F&B credit. We also have the leverage to negotiate the best possible booking terms which means that we can provide our clients with the most favourable conditions (for example, change/cancellation terms) before they travel.

Finally, you can be rest assured that all of our curated properties, transportation providers- in fact, anyone you come into contact with from our ground team –  are safety-screened and operating in line with our COVID-19 safety protocols.

When will it be safe to travel again?

 

That is the golden question, with no short answer to it.

We could start by looking first to the travel bubbles that are being established between individual countries or different regions of the world: countries with low numbers of cases are beginning to allow travel from specific other countries in a similar position. The re-opening will therefore be nuanced: it will not be a blanket reopening and will most definitely be staggered.

Even with borders reopening, leisure travel between regions – North America, Asia Pacific, Europe – is still restricted and it may be 2021 before these are fully reinstated. Travel has also been segmented into essential and non-essential, thus complicating matters. For our Singapore-based travellers, all this means is that travel within the Asia Pacific region is what we expect to be the first to roll out.

Even as destinations reopen, there will be different levels of risk associated with each one, depending largely on the approach the relevant government are taking to combat the virus. In this regard, our travel risks team is fully up-to-date and continues to closely monitor the situation with our network and ground partners in our destinations. This gives us insight into the ongoing progress being made, particularly with respect to any quarantine measures in place or the curve of reinfection.

If you’d like to keep track of border reopenings or the rates of COVID infection cases in each destination, here are some links to key public sources of information which are worth bookmarking:

Ministry of Health, Singapore (MOH) – Official advice and updates on COVID-19 situation and response in Singapore.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Singapore (MFA) – Official general advice and updates on COVID-19 entry restrictions and travel safety.

New York Times – Latest data on COVID-19 cases around the world (free account is requried).

IATA – Full list of travel restrictions implemented by countries in response to COVID-19.

Foreign Travel Advice, United Kingdom (GOV.UK) – Official general advice and latest information on coronavirus, safety and security, entry requirements and travel warnings.

Is air travel a good option in the near future?

 

Airlines schedules are gradually increasing, although it will be some time before they are as fully operational as they were prior to the pandemic.

Different regulations and protocols are being discussed to ensure safety, including:

  • Wearing of face masks on board
  • No food or drinks being served during flights
  • No magazines available
  • Limiting of interactions on board and at the airport
  • Consideration for social distancing, including limiting lavatory visits in-flight
  • Deep cleaning and sanitisation of aircraft

Here are some resources from the global airline authority, IATA, which will give you a sense of how health and safety mearsures are being reimagined for air travel:

https://www.iata.org/en/programs/safety/

https://www.iata.org/contentassets/d0e499e4b2824d4d867a8e07800b14bd/iata-guidance-flight-operations-during-post-pandemic.pdf

If you’re concerned about getting on a plane, we have spectacular ways to travel to your destination that don’t involve air travel. Luxurious and historic train journeys, roadtrips and sea voyages are part of the possibilities. The journey is the destination, after all.

What happens if I have already booked a journey but not yet travelled?

 

If you have already booked a journey with us, we will be there to support you in any way we can.

Before your departure, out travel team will be closely monitoring the news from your destination, and we’ll keep you informed of all significant developments.

If necessary, we will modify dates, defer your trip for later travel, and endeavour to ensure that you never have to pay more than you already have.

What if I need to change my dates or cancel my journey due to COVID-19?

 

We really understand that one of the key concerns right now is the need for flexibility.

We’re absolutely clear–now more than ever–that travel plans cannot be set in stone. That’s why we’re ensuring that any plans you’ve already made can be changed at no extra cost to you (for hotel bookings, the policies of our partner properties will apply), and if no suitable alternatives can be found, you can cancel your plans at no extra cost to you with full credit being refunded and put towards a future journey.

What happens if I am on a journey but a second wave prevents me from returning home?

 

In short, we have your back.

Our team will be doing everything in their power to stop this from happening in the first place, by keeping you informed on government policies, announcements by health authorities and maintaining due diligence on your travel plans and destination, from the outset.

In the unlikely event that such an event were to unfold quickly, our network of ground partners, certified medical experts and security risk personnel would ensure you’re taken care of.

What about travel insurance?

 

This is an important area: when the WHO announced the COVID-19 outbreak as a global pandemic on 11 March 2020, it was quickly confirmed by travel insurance agencies worldwide that any new travel insurance policy contracted after that date would not cover any claims resulting from COVID-19.

Regardless, however,  we would highly recommend all travellers to buy travel insurance in order to benefit from protection against any unforeseen circumstances such as flight delays and cancellations, lost belongings, accidents, travel agent insolvency and more.

Blue Sky Escapes works with specialist insurance agents who provide us with insights into the latest conditions in the insurance market.

You can trust our team will help you find the right travel insurance for your next journey.

How can I entrust my holiday with Blue Sky Escapes?

 

Blue Sky Escapes is a Singapore Tourism Board (STB) licensed travel agency, registered under A&P Journeys LLP.

This allows our travellers a peace of mind as they are protected in unforeseen circumstances such as non-delivery of services.

Here at Blue Sky Escapes, we want you to be confident when you travel. We have put together some official news and actionable updates below for your accessibility.

Latest Information related to COVID-19

Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 Dashboard – Comprehensive set of basic statistics regarding the COVID-19 (i.e. number of cases, fatalities).

World of Health Organisation (WHO) – Official updates on global response to COVID-19 from the WHO.

IATA – Full list of travel restrictions implemented by countries in response to COVID-19.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Travel Advice and COVID-19 updates from US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ministry of Health, Singapore (MOH) – Official advice and updates on COVID-19 situation and response in Singapore.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Singapore (MFA) – Official general advice and updates on COVID-19 entry restrictions and travel safety.

Foreign Travel Advice, United Kingdom (GOV.UK) – Official general advice and latest information on coronavirus, safety and security, entry requirements and travel warnings.

Trip.com – Entry restrictions by country, updated regularly. For reference only.

How to Stay Safe

 

John Hopkins University & Medicine (Coronavirus Resource Center) – What you can do to stay safe and prevent spread of the virus.

UK National Health Service (NHS) – Get the latest information and advice about COVID-19 from NHS.

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