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Ask Indagare: Coronavirus Travel Safety & What is Being Done as the World Reopens

As the world begins to loosen some restrictions on travel, we’ve gathered answers to your most-asked coronavirus travel safety questions to help you make sense of the current travel landscape—and what is being done to ensure that travel is as safe as possible across the industry. We’re also identifying trends and assessing the best hotel and private villa options along with private experiences for the near-term.

While we can’t predict the changing environment and new policies being introduced, we’ll continue to tap our extensive on-the-ground networks for the most up-to-date information. We’ll update this article regularly to keep you informed and provide you with the intel on the destinations you’re most curious about as we follow the latest guidelines in the coming weeks and months, together. We continue to identify closely how Indagare members and subscribers will be impacted throughout their travel experience, from the time they leave home to the time they return, including the best modes of transport for any trip they may be considering.

New guidelines remain fluid and the situation is likely to be this way for some time, but we are seeing more flexibility on cancellation policies from many of our partners and we will continue to share our findings with you, as they become available. The Indagare Team is always available for consultations and we are happy to schedule a conversation at any time, should you wish to discuss more specific destinations or your own travel needs, concerns or ideas about future trip-planning at any time.

Contact Indagare or your Trip Designer for more information on coronavirus travel safety, including the destinations that are open to travel, new COVID-19 hotel policies, the safest routes or transportation options available, future trip-planning advice, inspiration and ideas.

DESTINATIONS

Can you recommend any more private U.S. options or takeovers for summer that are closer to home? 

Staying a bit closer to home during the summer months than usual and simulating a more contained environment and/or opting for a longer stay in a “COVID-bubble” (as some U.S. hotel companies have dubbed it) is a viable option for those looking for more privacy or even a more remote location with wide-open spaces and experiences in nature. A few of our top properties that tick these boxes are already open or slated to open next week from Montana to Massachusetts, with specific safety protocols and social distancing guidelines and practices for all employees and guests now in place: These include The Resort at Paws Up (which never closed its doors), Amangiri and Amangani, the Lodge at Blue Sky, Blackberry Mountain, The Point in the Adirondacks and Twin Farms in Vermont, among others. Additionally, Hawaii could be a great option, with the possibility of reduced rates for longer-term house stays and services such as in-home grocery-delivery available. One of our former staffers is causing Instagram envy because she has been doing just that for the past month or so with her husband. Indagare only recommends properties that we feel are putting the safest measures in place to protect their guests and their staffs.

Driving, direct flights and private flying options are also a possibility, depending on the location. Indagare can provide specific details on how individual properties are ensuring the safest possible environments for guests and work with our hotel partners and on-the-ground networks to ensure special requests are properly secured and managed throughout a stay; special experiences can be arranged with similar considerations. 

Which international countries that have managed an optimal response to COVID-19 for travelers are likely to open to tourism? What are your thoughts on coronavirus travel safety in Europe? 

We’ve been hearing this question a lot lately, particularly for travelers looking to go to Europe. There are no short answers. The choices individual countries have made in managing the coronavirus are independent and varied. It’s also important to note that the State Department has yet to remove its Global Level 4 Health Advisory, advising U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel. Read our compendium of destinations currently open to Americans here.

Some countries, like New Zealand, which shut its borders early and enacted rapid virus testing and firm lockdown guidelines, have adopted more strict policies and created their own COVID-19 travel bubbles. Travel is allowed in a defined—and gradually expanding—region. New Zealand and Australia have proposed an agreement that would allow residents of either country to travel freely between the two without a 14-day quarantine. Neither country has immediate plans to open to outside travelers yet, with the earliest projections most likely in the fall. “New Zealand is also likely to be in higher demand once they do open up, because of their response to coronavirus and the growing appeal of the destination, which allows for privacy and extraordinary experiences in nature,” says Indagare’s COO Eliza Harris.

In Europe, most countries currently prohibit non-essential international travel and require 14-day quarantines for all visitors. This quarantine mandate will likely apply to Americans for the foreseeable future, although regional blocs are expanding their “COVID-travel bubble” in the coming months. That said, several European countries are likely to open to American travelers soon, offering testing upon arrival at the airport as an alternative to the 14-day quarantine. Closer to home, many Caribbean islands plan to allow international travelers by mid-June or early July, with protocols in place, including Turks & Caicos and The BahamasMexico plans on reopening region by region, with major resort destinations like Cabo and the Riviera Maya enacting their own phased reopenings later in the summer. These would come with strict safety measures, and newly-required sanitation certifications for resort properties. Meanwhile Canada is restricting all international travel until at least June 21.

Related: Coronavirus Travel Info: What’s Open To Americans

HOTELS

What are hotels in the U.S. doing to keep clients safe? 

With a new set of sanitation procedures and health strategies, several of Indagare’s favorite U.S. properties have recently reopened for summer holidays, including the Ritz Carlton Dorado Beach in Puerto Rico, Blackberry Farm in Tennessee and Amangiri and Amangani in Utah and Wyoming. Following suit, many others are slated to launch phased reopenings over the next few months—beginning with Ocean House in Rhode Island, the Four Seasons Surf Club in Miami, the Ranch at Rock Creek in Montana and Parrot Cay in Turks & Caicos, which all reopened on June 1. Here are some of the most widespread changes that these properties are making to ensure that their guests remain healthy and safe, this summer and beyond.

Reduced Occupancies

Most hotels—including Troutbeck in upstate New York (opened June 5), Amangani in Wyoming (opened June 1), the Lodge at Blue Sky in Utah (also June 1) and Rosewood Miramar Beach in California (now open for essential travel only)—are reopening with a reduced capacity, generally with an occupancy rate of 50 percent or less, to ensure that all social-distancing protocols may be safely and easily followed.

Booking Private Villas and Other Freestanding Accommodations

Properties with isolated accommodation options like cottages, bungalows, cabins and villas are taking advantage of their setup to welcome privatized getaways that nearly eliminate any contact with other guests. A few of our favorite properties that are currently offering such experiences include Blackberry Mountain in Tennessee, Valley Rock Inn in Sloatsburg, New York, the Ranch at Rock Creek in Montana and Sea Island in Georgia, all of which are now open.

Similarly, certain properties, like Dunton River Camp in Colorado (now open) and Tordrillo Mountain Lodge in Alaska (open July 15), and The Point (open June 25) will be available exclusively for full-property takeovers. 

New Sanitation Procedures

All of our favorite hotels are implementing stringent new sanitation procedures in their reopening plans to comply with CDC guidelines and cater to their community’s needs. The cleanliness of guest rooms will be the top priority, with the addition of new measures like using air purifying devices and sealing the room after housekeeping has exited until the guest arrives with a 24- to 72-hour window before entry. Many hotels are also introducing such policies as limiting housekeeping services to between stays (unless expressly requested by a guest) and adding new roles like “hygiene managers” and on-property nurses to ensure all measures are being followed properly. Most hotels will also require their staff to submit to frequent temperature checks and to wear face coverings and gloves at all times.

Contact-less Check-In and Temperature Checks

Many properties, like Rosewood Cordevalle in California (opened June 1) and Troutbeck in New York (opened June 5) have moved to contact-free systems for check-in and check-out, with formalities being carried out over email or in controlled environments like cars or protected areas. Many properties will also require temperature checks upon arrival, and guests who do not pass the screening will not be allowed on the premises. Room keys, itineraries, menus and other documents are also being digitized to allow guests to move about freely and make requests from their phone instead of in person—while many other hotels will now give guests “welcome kits” upon arrival with the tools they need to keep themselves sanitized and safe during their stay.

Redesigning Public Spaces

Most properties, including The Breakers in Palm Beach, Florida (now open) and the Lodge at Blue Sky in Utah, will be rearranging their public spaces and adapting facilities to maintain social-distancing amongst guests. Many hotels will require guests to wear face coverings and gloves in public spaces, while signage will map out routes that keep guests at a six-foot-distance. Hands-free sanitizing stations will be readily available. High-contact areas like gyms, spas and bars will remain closed at many properties, while others will enact a reservation system through which guests may book time to enjoy these spaces privately (with sanitation windows in between sessions). Still others are installing medical-grade air filtration systems in their public spaces.

“Takeout-Style” Dining

Many hotels, like Chatham Bars Inn in Cape Cod (now open as of June 8), the Ranch at Rock Creek in Montana, and Lodge at Blue Sky in Utah are reducing their dining room capacity to maintain six-foot-distancing—while others have chosen to close their restaurants entirely in favor of contact-free, delivery-style in-room dining or picnic-style dining, with an even greater emphasis on local, farm-to-table food.

Special Rates and More Flexible Cancellation Policies

To assuage anxieties during this changing time, many hotels are now offering special-rate packages and more flexible cancellation policies for Indagare members. Contact your Trip Designer or email us at info@indagare.com to learn more and see our full list of hotel openings.

AIRPORTS & AIRLINES

What should I know about flying and what airlines are doing this Summer?

Airlines and airports have reworked the entire flying experience in reaction to Coronavirus to minimize crowding and contact and maximize sanitation. Here’s a breakdown:

At the Airport

Many airlines have added plexiglass shields at check-in booths, and are wiping down check-in kiosks and counters throughout the day. Most are requiring passengers to wear masks during check-in. TSA agents will now have passengers scan their own tickets, and the agency is allowing passengers to carry-on 12 oz bottles of hand sanitizer, which will be screened separately. (All other liquids and gels still need to be under 3.4 ounces.)

Lounges have been closed or consolidated, as well: All Centurion, American Flagship and United Polaris lounges, for example, are closed until there is more demand, along with the majority of Delta Sky Club and American Admirals’ Club lounges. At the remaining open lounges, food service has been largely reduced. 

On the Plane

Before you board, airlines have amped up efforts to keep aircraft clean. Delta and United, for example, will be using electrostatic fog spray before every flight. And to minimize inter-passenger contact, most airlines have transitioned to a back-to-front boarding approach.  

Furthermore, in-flight services have been reworked. Meal and beverage offerings have been scaled back across the board in all seating cabins (no more alcohol on domestic Delta flights, for example, and only pre-sealed, bagged foods on JetBlue). 

For everyone’s safety, most airlines require flight crews and passengers to wear masks except when eating (although there have been reports of lax enforcement). And while passenger totals have plummeted, so have route offerings, often resulting in near-sold-out flights. As a result, airlines are limiting plane capacity to around 70 percent. Delta caps seating at 50 percent in first class and 60 percent in the main cabin, blocking off middle and select window and aisle seats. United is also blocking all middle seat purchases, while American is blocking half of them.

And if you’re worried about poor air circulation, that’s one area where flying trumps other transportation modes. The WHO states “there is little risk of any communicable disease being transmitted on board an aircraft,” since “ventilation provides a total change of air 20-30 times per hour.”

Private Flights

Of course, one way to avoid dealing with crowds is to fly private. Charter companies have boosted their own safety and sanitation measures, enacting many of the same policies as commercial carriers (less human contact, more stringent cleaning, etc.). Interest among Americans has been growing, according to David Zipkin, co-founder of Tradewind Aviation, which operates private flights in the Caribbean and the Northeast. April was very quiet, he says, but the company has seen a “significant uptick” in the last few weeks from new customers looking for a “safer and more secure method of flying this summer.” 

HOLIDAY

What are you seeing in terms of flexibility with holiday bookings—what kind of availability will there be for U.S. travelers? Will there be more flexible cancellation policies in place?

Prime options are still available, but with new social distancing requirements, there are fewer rooms, so availability may be challenging. We are seeing much greater flexibility for cancellations during the holidays, even at some top properties, which is unprecedented, but your Trip Designer can offer advice on specific holiday bookings, based on location and length of stay, upon request.

Contact Indagare or your Trip Designer for more information on coronavirus travel safety, including the destinations that are open to travel, new COVID-19 hotel policies, the safest routes or transportation options available, future trip-planning advice, inspiration and ideas.

 

– Elizabeth Harvey on May 27, 2020

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