This is how adventure travel evolves. Are you ready?
Everything is cleaned up at Tahoe Whitewater Tours in Truckee, California. Life jackets and helmets are sprayed and soaked in a solution and dried in the sun. The clipboards used to sign the disclaimers were sprayed with disinfectant. Even the pens are disinfected between uses.
Adventure travel is changing big and small. Why? “We want to stay open,” said an employee, pointing a non-contact thermometer to my forehead.
Beep! I am not sick.
A normal Sunday morning, Tahoe Whitewater Tours was carrying a school bus filled with summer vacationers to the Truckee River near Lake Tahoe for a rafting adventure. But this Sunday, like others during the summer of COVID-19, is not normal. The company is operating at half capacity, with rows of buses vacant to maintain social distancing. The guides maintain a more than polite distance as they set up their rafts, and even on the river, where they almost reluctantly unhook their masks.
These outdoor adventures are not business as usual
Whether you’re rafting, canoeing, hiking, or any adventure activity this summer, you already know it’s not business as usual. But you might be surprised at how much adventure travel is changing.
A survey of the adventure platform 57hours suggests that adventure travel becomes a lonely but highly personalized affair. A majority of guides (70%) said during the pandemic they only took one or two clients at a time. Other changes include new ‘don’t touch guest’ rules and the addition of medics in Adventure Travel. The precautions seem to be working – for now.
Adventure travelers play it safe and stay close to home this summer, says Dan Richards, CEO of Global Rescue, a travel crisis management and response company.
“Adventurers and expedition leaders are acting with caution,” he said. “With unpredictable international travel, many American mountaineers and hikers are looking for options in the United States.”
Experts say adventure travel is in high demand, despite the risks.
“Nature is the best respite during the pandemic,” says Limor Decter, luxury travel advisor at Ovation Travel Group. She participated in several soft adventure activities including hiking, biking and kayaking. “Social distancing was enforced. Bicycles, kayaks and stand-up paddleboard equipment were cleaned with each use. Public spaces and activities have never been cleaner.”
But staying safe outdoors isn’t as easy as it sounds.
“Staying in compliance with best practices, safety and local and national ordinances is an ever-evolving goal,” said Eric Segalstad, vice president of Ecotours of Gondwana.
How adventure travel operators are making sure you’re safe during the pandemic
Adventure travel companies have made a lot of changes since the start of the pandemic. Some expected it – and others surprisingly.
AT Dubrovnik Adventure, which organizes sea kayaking trips on the Adriatic, guides cannot touch clients except in emergencies. “This means things that we have taken for granted in the past, like a simple handshake to greet guests or guides are simply no longer allowed,” says Alexandra Vidak, CEO of the company. It is also temporarily banned from snorkeling mouthpieces and only offers disinfected masks for use during the snorkeling portion of its tours.
Flights to Jebel Jais, the longest zipline in the world, in Ras al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates, is operating at just 30% of its capacity. There are mandatory temperature checks for guests. Shuttles carry a maximum of five people at a time to the top of the attraction. Face masks are mandatory at all times, even during the flight. And the harnesses are taken out of service for 24 hours after each use and thoroughly disinfected before being reused.
Planet Chopper, a motorcycle tour operator that operates in the United States, New Zealand and India, enforces the COVID-19 test before the start of each trip. All customers and staff must maintain a distance of six feet. Bicycles are washed daily. And during certain visits, a doctor accompanies the group. “We only do tours where social distancing can be achieved, so we won’t be rafting as planned for our Route 66 tour,” says Ben Van Leeuwarden, CEO of Planet Chopper. “There is no room sharing.”
Incredible adventures, which offers great day-long white shark dives near San Francisco’s Farallon Islands, has made some dramatic changes for its next season, which begins September 26. Its travel capacity is limited to allow more time and cage space on the boat. The operator frequently disinfects the boat and has purchased more scuba gear as sharing is no longer an option. “Buffets are a concern too, so we’re finalizing a new plan to provide single-plate breakfast and lunch,” says Jane Reifert, VP of Marketing at Incredible Adventures. “We are taking a financial hit to keep people safe.”
Customers take adventure travel changes in stride
Adventurers quickly adapted to the changes. At Truckee last Sunday, guests wore their masks until their rafts fell into the river and quickly replaced their face covers on the shore. Employees appeared to keep an extra safe distance from customers, staying well outside a six foot perimeter on the ground. The rafters reacted as if they had been doing this from the start.
Vito Valentinetti has just completed an adventure trek in Andalusia, Spain, called El Caminito del Rey. It’s a well-regulated 7.7 mile podium hike through narrow gorges and requires you to wear a helmet.
“Additional COVID-19 Precautions included wearing a mask within two meters of anyone outside of your personal group of family or friends, and you should try to stay at least 5 meters from others. when possible, ”explains Valentinetti. “Hand sanitizer stations have been added throughout the canyon. There was a brief speech about the additional regulations and several staff members placed throughout the hike for law enforcement as well as new signage.
Mimi Lichtenstein, a travel advisor from Hanover, NH, we just returned from a two week guided glamping trip to Maine. She says nothing has been left to chance. Guides presented him with COVID tests before the trip began. Whenever the guides approached his family, they wore masks. The only time they didn’t have face covers was when they were on their own kayaks.
“We were happy to spend all of our time outdoors, which is naturally safer,” she says.
Outdoor adventure awaits – in 2021
Adventure operators change this year. If you are looking for a safe outdoor adventure, make sure your operator meets all state and local requirements and goes the extra mile to keep you safe. This can include “do not touch” rules, extreme social distancing – or not at all.
This is the case of Greg Vernovage, program director and Everest expedition leader at International mountain guides. He has a number of clients who wish to visit Nepal this year. But for now, he is not making a commitment.
“Our job is to assess the risk of climbing on Everest and mitigate it,” he says. “One form of mitigation is simply not to climb or walk when the risk is unreasonable or unavoidable.”
Vernovage is also cautious about his next ascents to Mount Rainier.
“We always drove people to Mount Rainier,” he says. “Now you have to drive yourself. We have an equipment check at our office, which is done outside in groups of four or less. We no longer cook for customers. Instead, we provide food. hot water for freeze-dried. meal preparation. “
This is perhaps one of the most important changes for future adventurers in 2020. It’s the ability to light up a dime, if necessary.
“Adventure travel requires flexibility,” says Caroline Mongrain, Marketing Manager for North America World Expeditions Travel Group, a tour operator. “And an open mind.”