living with quarantine – through the eyes of a travel agent

Following from my previous post, where I explained what it was like living in a safe bubble-like island with no coronavirus cases… I wanted to get a different perspective from someone working in an industry, in Guernsey, that relies on that bubble being popped, safely.

Luckily, in the UK, things are looking up for my industry in Travel PR. Clients are receiving more media coverage as journalists are able to visit their hotels and the hotels themselves are increasing occupancy. But those travellers are just from the UK, because in Guernsey it’s a different story.

There’s no confusing ever-changing list of destinations that islanders can and can’t travel to. There’s still a 2-week quarantine restriction on wherever you land from on this small island of 67,000 that thrives on hospitality and tourism. It’s a sector that’s been massively hit. And as an island of keen travellers eager to escape the safe haven and find excitement in far flung communities and cultures, travel agents usually thrive here too. But with isolation requirements such as those in Guernsey. It’s tough.

So to find out what it’s like living and working in a place that has such restrictions, I spoke to Personal Leisure Travel Counsellor, Chris Roberts, who co-owns the Travel Counsellor’s Franchise in Guernsey.

When did you first notice Covid-19 would have an effect on your work?

The affects of Covid-19 crept up slowly for the travel agency side of our industry in Guernsey, my first experience was concerns for clients travelling to China, cancellations and refunds, followed by briefings for other clients travelling to or through Asia as it spread to other countries. Of course there were other concerns at that time – European travel post-Brexit being one, but one particular client, who we later had to rescue, was briefed on coronavirus whilst we delivered their tickets.

Was this new to you? Warning of potential dangers?

It wasn’t new. These particular clients we briefed on forest fires in Australia before they left and also about flooding in New Zealand the day they arrived, all in a days work as we say! I’ve been in the retail travel industry for over four decades, and have seen a lot, from volcanic ash clouds to a tsunami, from 911 to increasing tour operator failures and the most airline failures in aviation history during 2019. But little had prepared me for the global impact and the sad loss of life, stretched resources and a stop of all travel the World over, which has been devastating in so many ways.

What did you have to do to help?

So as cancellations were made, clients rescued from far flung corners of the World with virtually nothing available, working and even calling clients at all hours of the day and night in order to achieve getting everyone home, assisting with insurance claims, refunds (our company have given over 30 Mil in refunds now), to customer service swapping our clients plans to next year, it’s been a busy time. But I consider myself lucky, many of my industry colleagues and friends have been made redundant or furloughed, but despite no salary since this started we have had purpose and have never closed, having our clients to look after.

My colleagues at Travel Counsellors I have to say have been very inspiring and mood lifting, with Facebook chat groups sharing funny stories, to keep fit and Rate my Plate, for those brave enough to share images of their meals for colleagues to comment on. I was also very fortunate as Travel Counsellors being a large agency and tour operator in numerous countries had extensive resources, with training and staff available round the clock to assist us. We even won the Queens Award for Enterprise whilst all this was happening.

Congrats!
And lastly, in your opinion, should Guernsey mirror the UK introducing travel corridors?

Conflicted is the feeling currently. I’m pleased my UK colleagues have something to sell and clients there who wish to travel can do so, do I want something to sell? Well when it’s safe yes. My clients many of whom have become friends and quite a few elderly I care for greatly and I don’t want them going anywhere until we know travel and the destinations I sell are safe. So with our borders potentially closed beyond even the 1st September, we are happy in our bubble and we watch eagerly for further air bridges and the new normal being workable, so we can have all experience the joy that travel brings us all once again.

Boarding Post-Pandemic

Queues will be longer… Check-in will be longer… Masks must be worn… All discussions of flying in the post-Covid world. Which, if you ask me, aren’t going to put me off at this stage. I’m, quite frankly, missing the repetitive announcements of “a bag left unattended will be removed and maybe destroyed”. I’m even missing security check-in asking an experienced traveller if there’s a laptop in my bag or if I’m wearing a belt. At this stage I’ll comply with whatever rules it takes to hear my check in gate open.

So what are the airlines doing to allow us to become a step closer to boarding a plane safely and securely? From wellness ambassadors to cheaper flights… There’s a lot of positive change as well as the odd mask.

Etihad Launches New Wellness Ambassadors

‘According to the airline the ambassadors will be able to “offer reassurance to customers by sharing advice on travel wellbeing and details of the health and sanitisation measures being implemented throughout their journey”.’ Mark Caswell, Business Traveller

Air France

“France’s plan to provide €7 billion ($7.7 billion) of government-backed loans to help Air France-KLM through the coronavirus crisis was approved in early May by the European Commission.” Flight Global

Austrian

Austria’s government has agreed with Lufthansa Group a financial support package for Austrian Airlines worth €600 million ($667 million) to secure its future operation as a network carrier in Vienna. Flight Global

American Airlines Positive Change To Seat Refunds

“The Fort Worth-based carrier has just made a major change to its refund policy for seat fees. Effective immediately, American Airlines will let you request a voucher for the value of your non-refundable seat if you cancel your trip during the coronavirus travel period. The policy applies to flights booked by June 30, 2020 for travel through Sep. 30.” Benji Stawski, The Points Guy

CNN’s Fred Pleitgen boards a Lufthansa flight to see the new reality of flying during the pandemic.

Video here

Social Distancing Measures At Gatwick

“Only family groups or people travelling in the same party can travel in lifts together. All passengers and staff must wear face masks, which are on sale through vending machines. The airport is telling passengers: “You will see protective screens in place at many places including check-in, boarding and gates.” Simon Calder, Independent Online.

Travel Experts Predict Prices Will Plummet

“While flight prices are currently rather high, with a Qantas flight from Sydney to Melbourne costing as much as $539 one way, a drop in fares may be on the horizon as domestic travel increases and border restrictions are predicted to ease.

Speaking to news.com.au, Angus Kidman, Finder’s travel guru said all eyes will be on Queensland which he tips will boast some of the best airfare savings.

“Melbourne-Sydney is Australia’s busiest route, but has a lot of business travel so doesn’t usually see the biggest discounts. Once Queensland opens up its borders, I’d expect sub-$30 fares for the Gold Coast.” Escape, Vanessa Brown

Hang in there

With a Selection of Ophir PR’s Hammock Holidays.

Note: I appreciate that we are all living through difficult times right now and COVID-19 has stalled our travel plans. I, however, hope the below blog can offer a bit of light content in the interim before life returns to normal.

14th June 2020…// Whilst we sit together in an extended layover to our next dream holiday I’ve roped in a few ideas for your time on standstill. From poolside service in Corfu’s paradise to lovingly crafted jungle villas in Brazil you’ll soon be hooked on the idea of a hammock holiday. So, take a seat and let this inspire you.

Maldives – Be Easily Swayed

Beautiful Maldivian Elegance with Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa

Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa is situated on the private island of Furanafushi in the Republic of Maldives 1km and a 15-minute speedboat ride away from Malé International Airport. The five-star resort offers 176 guest rooms designed to blend into the surrounding turquoise waters, pristine beaches and lush greenery. Also boasting 7 unique restaurants and bars, the Shine Spa for Sheraton located on its very own island and 3 outdoor tropical fresh water pools.

Nightly rates at Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa (www.marriott.co.uk/hotels/travel/mlesi-sheraton-maldives-full-moon-resort-and-spa/; +960 664 2010) start from GBP 315 per night based on 2 people sharing a Deluxe Garden View King Room on a B&B basis.

Brazil – A Hanging Haven

Tree House Jungle Villa in the Brazilian Rainforest with Stay One Degree

Exceptionally located in the Atlantic Rainforest in Brazil’s Bahia State, this fabulous loft villa is an architectural masterpiece that offers privacy and relaxation in the heart of nature. A one of a kind jungle villa, this unique property has been lovingly crafted with the environment in mind, built solely from 60 year old naturally felled timbers, and offers the ideal romantic escape from the turbulence of modern day life. Step from the elevated terrace into the villa’s private, secluded garden and relax poolside with a good book and a long cool drink, and take in the sounds and the fragrances of the surrounding rainforest.

Sleeps 2 Guests. Available through Stay One Degree for GBP 215 per night. For more information https://www.stayonedegree.com/en/home/3354/information/view?from=2020-04-11&to=2020-04-19

Greece – Rope In Your Friends

A Hidden Cycladic Gem with Bright Blue Villas

Villa Amaryllis is a rare haven of privacy and tranquillity that serves as a private relexation retreat on the undiscovered island of Serifos. The villa owner’s passion for wellness is evident through the abundance of large outdoor spaces, including a dedicated yoga terrace and relaxation space with a beautiful view from the villa’s hammock. Guests are invited to absorb the magic of the Aegean views whilst practicing their sun salutations, and yoga sessions can be arranged on request through Bright Blue Villas’ concierge.

This 4-bedroom property sleeps up to 8 people and Bright Blue Villas (www.brightbluevillas.com/, +30 210 3410210) offers Villa Amaryllis from GBP 9,792 per week.

Italy – Come Hang Out

Green Space Villa Heaven with Tuscany Now & More

Set on an important 900 acre estate, this beautiful stone farmhouse rises in the hills above Rufina. Il Borgo Di Petroio from Tuscany Now & More makes for a perfect family villa thanks to its large size and recent renovation. A guest house features more rooms and leads to a charming courtyard with a second kitchen, brick oven and large fireplace. The villa’s large private swimming pool is the perfect place for children to play and for parents to enjoy spectacular views of the surrounding hills, while sunbathing under the Tuscan sun.  A playful or competitive match of tennis can also be enjoyed on the estate’s astro-turf tennis court.

This 5 bedroom property sleeps up to 14 people and Tuscany Now & More (www.tuscanynowandmore.com, 020 7684 8888) offer Il Borgo Di Petroio from GBP 4,933 per week

St Lucia – String Your Family Along

A Complimentary Tranquil Setting with Windjammer Landing

Nestled into 60 acres of lush hillside on St Lucia’s north western coast, Windjammer Landing is a Mediterranean style resort on a large crescent-shaped stretch of beach. The resort’s 201 guest rooms and villas range from stylish and contemporary waterfront villas to beachfront suites steps from the water’s edge and charming hillside rooms each designed to offer its guests beautiful views across Labrolette Bay and the Caribbean Sea.

Rooms at Windjammer Landing start a GBP 215.00 per night with Villas starting at GBP 394.00. For more information and reservations, visit www.windjammer-landing.com

For further information on any of these holidays feel free to get in touch via email @ mgriffin@ophirpr.co.uk