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Zephyr and the COVID-19 Pandemic

Updated July 1, 2020

The travel world – indeed the entire world – has been turned upside down with the COVID-19 pandemic. We understand this has greatly impacted you, as it has greatly impacted us and our ability to run tours.

Some cities, states, and countries have done a great job reopening and others less so. This affects both where we travelers want to travel and where we are actually allowed to travel. However, after having canceled all our tours from March through June, as of mid-July we are now preparing to run our first US tours again with a scheduled Montana-Idaho-Washington Stating and Biking Adventure and a Beartooth Hiking Adventure in Montana.

For these two tours and all others we offer until the COVID pandemic is controlled, following are our procedures for keeping you safe. Please be aware these procedures will change as more information becomes available.

Small-Group Adventure Travel

Our small-group tours are safer than larger bus tours or cruises and outdoor, active travel is by its nature safer since biking, hiking, snowshoeing, kayaking, and other activities can all be done with more social distancing. (Note: Current data shows almost all infections happen indoors.)

Health of Participants

In New Zealand, which has been extremely effective in its fight against the coronavirus, they use a “bubble” system which gradually allows people to increase the people with whom they are in contact. While it does not transfer perfectly, we will use the same concept for our tours. You will be in contact with other participants but by keeping each person healthy, we hope to keep everyone healthy.

  • We will encourage our travelers to be extra careful during the two weeks prior to a tour.
  • We will require all tour participants to certify prior to the tour that they do not have any symptoms of the coronavirus and have not been in contact with anyone they know is infected.
  • We will have a non-touch thermometer on site to take the temperature of all tour participants. (The CDC considers a person to have a fever at 100.4 degrees.)
  • We will train our staff to recognize the symptoms of COVID-19 and be prepared to screen tour participants.
  • At some point, it might even be possible to test each person at the start of a tour. Airports might also initiate this.

Airline Flights

Most of our tour participants fly to their destination and we are not in control of that aspect of travel. However, airlines and airports are taking extraordinary steps to keep passengers safe, including not selling tickets for middle seats, new electrostatic sanitation after each flight, mask requirements, and passenger screenings. (Here is one example from Alaska Airlines.) We highly suggest you book tickets on airlines that require masks and limit capacity on flights.

Tour Safety Precautions

  • We will provide an introductory briefing on the first day of your tour about precautions we should all take.
  • We will have face masks, hand sanitizer, a first aid kit, and a thermometer available on the tour.
  • We will move as many activities (introductions, morning meetings, etc) outside as possible.
  • We will sanitize our van daily.
  • We will eliminate handshakes and glass sharing.
  • We will ask all participants to have a face mask available and will ask you to use it in specific situations such as van rides.

Hotels and Restaurants

Hotels and restaurants, too, are taking extraordinary measures to keep patrons safe beyond just extra cleanings. For hotels this includes special rules for elevator capacity, removing handheld items such as pens, leaving rooms empty for 24 hours before someone checks in, and virtual checkins. For restaurants this includes reduced capacity, encouraging outdoor dining, and face masks for employees.

  • We will communicate with our hotels and restaurants to ensure they are following updated recommendations for maintaining safety.
  • We will increase the number of meals we eat outside of restaurants by doing more upscale picnics or take-out al fresco dining.
  • If we do eat indoors we will eat in smaller groups.
  • We have reduced our single supplements to encourage single travelers to book single rooms.

Ground Transportation

  • Where possible, we will reduce van rides requiring everyone to be inside at once.
  • Where possible, we will use larger vehicles or more vehicles so each person can have their own row.
  • We will run shuttles more often with fewer people in each run.
  • We will very likely require masks while in vans and will sanitize vehicles daily.
  • In fact, on many of our tours you can actually drive yourself rather than ever getting in a van. Just ask us.

Higher Risk Travelers

If you are at higher risk or just have a low risk tolerance, you are welcome to implement even stricter measures on tours. You can choose to drive yourself to a domestic tour, including from hotel to hotel. You can choose to eat with your own travel party at dinner. You can choose to skip any group activities we have planned.

Travel in 2021

Our entire 2020 tour schedule was set by the time the pandemic hit. However, for 2021 we are able to set a schedule that will, hopefully, give you options that appeal to you even if we are still struggling with COVID-19.

  • We will be adding more domestic tour locations since international travel will be more likely to have restrictions.
  • Most of our North American tours are in our beloved western states and provinces. We are researching new domestic locations that are within driving distance to population centers in the northeast and midwest.
  • We have identified tours that require fewer or even no shuttles at all and will be prioritizing those tours.

Summary

We are always focused on safety, with our guides being trained in first aid and CPR. As we recover from the pandemic, we will be prepared to offer you small-group adventure travel vacations in as safe and responsible a manner as possible. Most importantly, we know you want to travel and we will be there for you when it is possible and you are ready!

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