COVID-19 Updates & Recommendations

For the most current information, please visit this page regularly.
WTABC is updating the information below as new updates become available.

The WTABC has been monitoring industry and government recommendations in light of the evolving impact of the COVID-19 virus on tourism. Tourism is an important aspect of the global economy and presenting a measured, informed and consistent approach will benefit both travellers and the travel industry.

For the most up to date health information regarding British Columbia, Travel Operators, Wilderness Tourism Staff and Travelers should visit the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) site and the British Columbia’s Centre for Disease Control. Relying on the media for accurate reporting is not recommended.

BC's Restart Plan - What it means for your business

We are now in PHASE 3 of the BC Restart Plan. People can take part in smart, safe and respectful travel within B.C. Remember, international travellers returning to B.C. are required by law to self-isolate for 14 days and complete a self-isolation plan.

What does this mean for your business?

  • All businesses that want to open need to have a set of COVID-19 best practices completed and posted on your website and in your place of business. WTA Members can login to our Members Only Page for the guidelines related to their sector.
  • WorkSafe BC also has templates to follow in developing the all-important Safety guidelines for employees and customers.

If you are operating this year, be sure to get your COVID-19 protocols and best practices plan in place. Also, understand your insurance coverage limitations related to the pandemic and revise your waivers if necessary.

It is still unclear when PHASE 4 of the BC’s Restart Plan will begin and allow International travellers to enjoy our province for leisure purposes. All changes to Phasing will depend on how well the province is doing at maintaining a low COVID-19 infection rate.

Looking for sector best practices? Contact WTA for more info.

FINANCIAL SUPPORT

The WTABC is keeping abreast of promises made by the Government of Canada and the Province of BC regarding compensation for affected businesses and will assist its members with claims.

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OF CANADA

Canada’s Federal Government has created a Coronavirus Information Webpage containing the following:

  • Financial and Economic Support for Wages, Loans, Rent Relief, & the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund
  • Current Situation 
  • Your Health
  • Travel
  • Safety and Security
  • Other Information (Q&A, Printable Resources, etc.)

Click on the button below for the most current information on business loans, wage subsidies and tax deferrals

PROVINCE OF BRITISH COLUMBIA

For the most recent updates from the Province of BC, visit the COVID-19 Provincial Support and Information Webpage. In addition, in partnership with Small Business BC, the Province has also created an excellent Fact Sheet outlining the following:

  • Provincial and Federal Economic Support
  • Property tax, Utility Bills, ICBC, WCB, etc.
  • BC Longer-Term Economic Plan
  • Ways to Pivot Your Business Operations
  • Other Supports and Resources
  • Information for Employees

INDUSTRY EFFORTS TO ADDRESS SHORTFALLS IN CURRENT FUNDING

WTABC understands from its members that while the current financial supports are appreciated, several still need further clarification and adjustments to better fit the unique requirements of the Adventure Tourism Sector. In this regard, we are working closely with TIABC to reach out to the government for revisions and enhancements. 

We are also working closely with several tourism associations to advocate for support for the Wilderness Tourism Sector and recognizes that these sector associations that also can help provide additional guidance for our members:

Destination BCsign up for their weekly teleconferences with tourism sectors and operators on issues relevant to the tourism industry in BC. Recordings of previous calls are also available. Also, Destination BC has several helpful guides on their website that you may find useful in communication with your guests

Regional Tourism Associations: many of these associations are also holding weekly or bi-weekly conference calls to discuss local issues and solutions related to Covid-19. Check with your local association to sign up and participate.

Tourism Industry Association of BC: TIABC is producing a regular C-19 Bulletin outlining its efforts to help tourism operators throughout the Province of BC.

Tourism Industry Association of Canada: to help all tourism stakeholders TIAC’s President, Charlotte Bell meets daily with federal leaders to address the impact on the industry and discuss solutions for survival and recovery.

Adventure Travel Trade Association: the ATTA has created several resources including an information document titled Financial Strategies and Tactics for Adventure Travel Businesses During Economic Uncertainty

THINGS TO CONSIDER RE: REFUNDS & INSURANCE

You have likely received calls from guests wondering about the implications of cancelling or deferring their trip. One of the keys to keeping your season intact is increasing your guest’s confidence that they will be safe travelling to, during and leaving their trip. And if necessary, that they will be treated fairly if their trip has to be cancelled.

For information on your Legal Obligations Under the Business Practice and Consumer Protection Act, read this post by law firm MLT Aikins: Outdoor/Adventure Industry Trip Cancellations and Customer Deposits in Times of COVID-19.

When your guests are asking to cancel their trip, consider asking them to check with their credit card provider. Some cards do have quarantine and travel restriction allowable refund policies.

For information regarding the BC Travel Assurance Fund for guest refunds and BC Travel Industry Regulation as it applies to travel agents and travel wholesalers see the April 2 TIABC Bulletin.

The ATTA’s Financial Strategies and Tactics for Adventure Travel Businesses During Economic Uncertainty also provides helpful tips for updating your cancellation and refund policies

IF YOU REQUIRE ASSISTANCE IN APPLYING FOR COMPENSATION PLEASE CONTACT US.

Recommendations for Tour Operators

  • Review DestinationBC’s recommendations for businesses in light of COVID-19
  • Consider your cancellation policy carefully and decide whether it will benefit your long-term relationship with your travellers to offer refunds or credits or no cancellation penalties to encourage future bookings. Do not assume traveller’s insurance will cover the cost for the guest.
  • Monitor countries on your itineraries to understand if border closures or traveller bans may create problems for your travellers when returning home
  • Consider if it is best to cancel your trip to protect your traveller’s health and ensure a good experience
  • Offer any support needed regarding hotel, air, and transportation cancellations
  • Communicate regularly to your clients and guests
  • Keep you and your staff safe by following these TIPS

Preparedness Tips

WTA members can plan on how they need to adapt to the current situation. The aim is to provide your clients with the confidence to hold their bookings while keeping staff and clients healthy in the process. This is not intended to be a comprehensive list, rather a place to start planning. Having a viable response plan in place will help increase guest confidence and hopefully help save bookings.

Have a plan to deal with trip cancellations, passengers becoming ill during a trip, insurance coverage changes, flight interruptions, etc. Start contemplating scenarios like this and determine workarounds or exit strategies. If you don’t already have an emergency response plan now is the time to create one. See Prepare BC for a primer. 

Many of your clients will travel to their destination by air. This makes the airline industry the first level of screening. Be informed of what the airline industry is doing and saying to keep their seats filled.

They are as anxious you are to keep their business functioning. They are focusing their communications on providing factual information: What their cleaning protocols consist of, how the air filtering systems work, pre-screening and on-site screening of passengers. Our operators can follow a similar protocol if they feel their operational circumstances warrant it.

Most warnings about group travel and meetings refer to large groups, i.e., more than 50 people. WTA operators typically host 8 to 15 people at a time. there are options to address concerns of virus transmission like adopting personal space protocols in confined spaces. The Norovirus event has provided some valuable references and much of that information is very relevant today. 

Messaging to guests should focus on the geographic locations of high-risk areas. In Canada, most people that have been diagnosed are in self-isolation at home or in retirement homes. Be prepared to refer your clients and staff to more detailed, accurate information.

Be aware of what your insurance policy will cover in the event of a required evacuation. Understand what travel insurance providers are communicating with your clients. 

Have a plan or policy set on how you will deal with refund requests from cancellations; this will be important to the future of your business. Being able to communicate clearly to your clients will give them confidence in their decision on whether they want to keep their booking or cancel, and whether they want to return to your business in the future.

Many of your clients will travel to their destination by air. This makes the airline industry the first level of screening. Be informed of what the airline industry is doing and saying to keep their seats filled.

They are as anxious you are to keep their business functioning. They are focusing their communications on providing factual information: What their cleaning protocols consist of, how the air filtering systems work, pre-screening and on-site screening of passengers. Our operators can follow a similar protocol if they feel their operational circumstances warrant it.

Most warnings about group travel and meetings refer to large groups, i.e., more than 50 people. WTA operators typically host 8 to 15 people at a time. there are options to address concerns of virus transmission like adopting personal space protocols in confined spaces. The Norovirus event has provided some valuable references and much of that information is very relevant today. 

Messaging to guests should focus on the geographic locations of high-risk areas. In Canada, most people that have been diagnosed are in self-isolation at home or in retirement homes. Be prepared to refer your clients and staff to more detailed, accurate information.

Be aware of what your insurance policy will cover in the event of a required evacuation. Understand what travel insurance providers are communicating with your clients. 

Have a plan or policy set on how you will deal with refund requests from cancellations; this will be important to the future of your business. Being able to communicate clearly to your clients will give them confidence in their decision on whether they want to keep their booking or cancel, and whether they want to return to your business in the future.

Determine if a pre-screening protocol is necessary for your guests. Pre-screening could include: 

  • Requesting client history of travel in the past 4 months; have they travelled or have immediate family/household members travelled to countries that are listed by the PHAC as high-risk.    
  • Requesting information on general health or any illnesses prior to the trip. Consider onsite screening before they depart for the lodge.
  • Monitor guest and staff health during trips; cruise lines are requiring guests to report any emerging illnesses during a trip. You may want to consider this as part of your operating protocol.
  • Schedule and keep records of cleaning practices. Some larger operators are specifying which cleaning products are being used.
  • Formalize medical monitoring protocols and identify the closest medical services to your operation should you require them
  • Formalize and clarify evacuation route planning (closest evacuation points, transportation means, etc.)
  • Record emergency contact information (contact lists, guest contact info, methods of communication, etc.)
  • Monitor the broader situation in BC, be prepared to inform your guests upon their return.
  • Following up with your guests’ post-trip to check on their health; tell them in advance you will be doing this.
  • Adjust your protocols from lessons learned, be flexible.
  • Check your insurance to see what coverage you which types of insurance (medical, “cancel for any reason”, etc.) and amount of coverage included.
  • Monitor the World Health Organization’s site and your own country’s precautions
  • Check your itinerary to see if any border closures have been put in place
  • Bring extra medication in case you are delayed returning home due to quarantines or border closures
  • Follow the recommended health safety recommendations regarding handwashing and wipe surfaces while travelling as an extra precaution
  • If you want or need to cancel your plans, check your traveller’s insurance to see if it covers your reason for cancellation

Additional Resources

admin@wilderness-tourism.bc.ca
Phone: (250) 655-4103

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