OUR RESPONSE TO COVID-19
With everything rapidly changing in our lives, we want to give you a bit of comfort and stability, some calm in the storm. Read on to see our response to the current situation and how we are stabilizing in our New Normal.
Kuoda is Ready for You!
( A Message from Mery Calderon )
Greetings from Cusco!
From the beginning of these extraordinary and challenging times, we at Kuoda have been hard at work preparing for the day that we will be able to welcome you to South America!
I would like to detail a few of the different actions we are taking to ensure that when you do arrive, your trip is as smooth and safe as possible:
- Along with the Safe Travels stamp from the WTTC, we also have our own set of protocols to be ready for the “new normal” in travel. This is an evolving document which will grow as governments and health organizations put out new recommendations.
- Though we have been flexible with bookings, we have increased our flexibility, allowing for any changes you need. This includes more ease in changing dates for COVID-19 related reasons, among other things.
- We will ensure a meaningful and socially responsible travel experience for you, as well as for all of the people you meet along the way. We are all in this together.
- We are creating new travel experiences which will focus more on outdoor visits to areas that are less crowded, ensuring that you get a high-quality travel experience while easily maintaining distance and staying safe.
Our mission is to provide the best travel experience we can while keeping you as safe as possible. I am confident that we will get through this situation together, and emerge stronger than ever!
We look forward to welcoming you to South America, and traveling with you in our new normal. Until that day comes, stay safe!!
Mery Calderon, Founder and President
Keeping You Safe
We are committed to keeping up with this changing world to make sure that all of our clients and team members have the safest and most enjoyable experience possible while here in South America.
To get ready, we have put together a new set of protocols and safety guidelines. These will be part of a living document, ready to be modified as any further information comes out. While the full document is quite detailed, here are the basics:
- General Measures
- These apply to everyone involved with making our trips happen, including our guides, drivers, and providers.
- The general measures include the basics for disease prevention, including washing hands, wearing a mask, avoiding crowds, and keeping their distance when in places around other people. This also includes measures on what to do if one has symptoms.
- Staff Measures
- Along with our team members that you meet on your travels, our staff behind the scenes will also have a set of safety measures.
- Right now, our office staff are working from home, making social distancing much easier. For any meetings, we are currently using online conferencing platforms, having joined the pajama-bottom bandwagon.
- When our office does open back up, the same general measures will apply, such as frequent hand washing, wearing masks, regular cleaning of common areas, and reduced office capacity.
- Accommodation Measures
- Hotels and other suppliers will be held to very high standards and must adhere to the official government guidelines and protocols.Some of the most noticeable changes here will be during check-in and during breakfast – Check-in and check-out will be entirely contactless, as will payment for any additional services; breakfast at the hotels will be table service rather than buffet-style.
- Also, while the hotels we work with are always quite clean, you may notice that they will have stepped up their hygiene standards even more, keeping guests and staff alike as safe and healthy as possible.
- Transportation Measures
- When traveling, one of the most important parts is getting from place to place safely. With COVID-19, safety and hygiene are more important than ever.
- Any transport providers must follow clear measures to mitigate any risk. This includes operating at 50% capacity – the upside of which is extra space for each person while you’re on the move.
- And while our drivers are friendly, they will maintain their distance, greeting travelers with a nod or a wave rather than a handshake. They will also know where the medical centers are, just in case they are needed during transport.
- Kuoda Guide Measures
- Our guides help make our trips extraordinary, being some of the friendliest, most passionate and knowledgeable people you will ever meet.
- Even though they are likely to feel like part of the family, our guides will also be sure to maintain a safe distance, and greet travelers with a wave rather than a handshake.
- Guides are also well-versed in first aid and will be able to help in any situation that may arise – possible COVID-19, discomfort from altitude sickness, or even just a scrape.
- The future is uncertain, though what is certain is that there will be a new normal of travel. By following these guidelines and protocols, we can be sure to meet that new normal by keeping our travelers as safe as possible while creating beautiful memories that last a lifetime.
Maximizing Flexibility in your Travels
Since the beginning of the current situation, Kuoda Travel has been committed to being vigilant and open in our approach to travel, providing guests both flexibility and security.
Because of this, we have updated booking terms pertaining to the current situation, which will maximize flexibility as much as possible.
This set of terms will remain in place until such time as the World Health Organization has declared that the pandemic is over, or restrictions impacting travel to South America are lifted.
Our provisional terms apply to services provided by Kuoda Travel. The terms and conditions of our partners and providers and how they are applied remain at the discretion of said partners and providers (for example, trains, flights, cruises, etc.).
In order to give our guests increased comfort and peace of mind, Kuoda Travel will offer the following revised terms and conditions on all of our services reserved during 2020:
- New bookings will require only 10% down as a deposit.
- The balance payment will be due only 12 weeks before your travel dates.
- Any booking set to start before Dec 31, 2020 may be postponed with 30 days of anticipation to a date during the year of 2021 and carry forward 100% of the booking’s value to the future booking.
- There may be a small fee due to outside providers, which will be kept as low as possible.
- Prices do increase from Dec 10 – Jan 4 every year, and so the booking value may not go as far during these dates.
- Any booking set to start before December 31, 2020 may be canceled with 30 days of anticipation with no cancellation fee directly charged by Kuoda Travel. There will be cancellation fees due to outside partners and providers, which will be kept as low as possible.
We have negotiated flexible terms with all of our partners, and so your travel designer will work with you to create an itinerary with terms and conditions that satisfy your needs for comfort and security.
Confirmed Bookings Travelling During 2020
In order to accommodate varying travel restrictions, we have amended our standard terms to allow guests to postpone travel up to a year and carry forward 100% of the booking’s value. Should a guest elect to cancel the booking, our standard cancellation policy will apply.
We have communicated with all of our guests to keep them up to date on government restrictions on travel.
As flexible as Kuoda Travel is being in relation to future travel, travel insurance is still essential for those traveling after the pandemic restrictions lifted.
You will want to be sure to look for policies that allow for “Cancel for Any Reason”. Click HERE for more information about what to look for when purchasing travel insurance.
When can we start to travel again?
This will depend on many factors, and vary by country, but we are hopeful that these pieces will fall into place by the end of 2020 or beginning of 2021, but there are no firm dates yet. We are monitoring this, however, and will keep you updated!
Why should I use a travel agent post-COVID?
- A travel agency will give you more support before and during your trip than if you were to book on your own.
- We have the local knowledge and experience to maximize your trip while minimizing the risks.
- We have local connections and relationships to keep you as safe as possible, including information for medical facilities for each area that you visit.
- We also put in place strong policies and protocols that our operators must adhere to, which we keep a close eye on.
- Furthermore, when you use an agent, we do all of the leg work with making and changing reservations. We are able to be flexible both before and during your travels, reacting to any situation that may crop up.
- So if you need to postpone or even cancel a booking, you just need to contact one place (us) rather than any number of hotels, trains, domestic flights, etc.
Using a travel agency, especially during these uncertain times, will make booking and traveling much smoother, as well as safer.
Are any areas going to be safer to travel to than others? Why?
Due to social distancing, and how the virus spreads, you may be somewhat safer looking at places that are less populated and more isolated, such as treks or visiting more rural areas and lesser known archaeological sites.
That being said, cities tend to be where the better medical facilities are.
No matter where you visit, however, you will want to make sure to wear your mask, maintain social distancing and keep your hands sanitized and clean.
What happens if I need to cancel for COVID-19 related reasons after my trip has started?
If your trip is in progress and you need to cancel for COVID-19 related reasons, we will help in any way that we can – getting you medical attention and helping to get back home as soon as possible.
There will be additional costs for this, as these services will incur costs, and our partners and providers (hotels, trains, flights, tours) will have cancellation fees, especially last minute.
For this reason, you will need to have insurance that not only covers lost services that may occur, but also any health services you may need to access along the way.
Will we be checked before entering any monuments or attractions?
Yes, there will be checks upon entering any monuments or attractions.
It is not set in stone yet, however it is likely that these checks will include a temperature check, as well as a spray of disinfectant while you enter. Also, masks will likely be required.
We will update this once we have a more concrete idea of what these checks will entail.
What happens if my tour goes to an affected area?
We will monitor the state of each area that you have in your itinerary, and plan accordingly. The ideal plan will be to modify the itinerary so that you do not enter an affected area.
If this is not possible, we will redouble our hygiene and distancing efforts, and make sure to keep you completely informed of the situation, and be sure to have any equipment that you may need available, such as masks, hand sanitizer, etc.
What will be the protocols for visiting the archaeological sites – Machu Picchu, Saqsaywaman, etc.
As of now, these protocols will include temperature checks, social distancing, preventative signage, and limiting the number of people allowed in any given archaeological site.
Will the guides be trained in first aid should someone in my party come down with COVID-19?
Yes, our guides are trained extensively in First Aid, including what to watch for and what to do in the case of COVID-19.
Is there anything we should know before taking a cruise in South America?
At this point, it’s mainly a matter of familiarizing yourself with the protocols and regulations of the ship, which we can help with getting to you.
What protocols are in place for lodge programs or cruises that offer group excursions?
At the moment, group excursions are suspended until future notice. Once group services do become available, these will be a much reduced number in order to maintain security.
There will also be increased sanitation and hygiene protocols in place, to make sure all excursions are as safe as they can possibly be.
And currently lodge programs and cruises are operating at 50% capacity in order to make social distancing much easier.
Will we be required to wear masks, gloves etc during our travels?
Yes, for now masks will be required in all public areas. Gloves are voluntary.
What sort of health facilities are available if we do get sick with COVID-19?
Larger cities will have more modern health care facilities, while more rural areas will have smaller clinics that may have more limited resources.
No matter where you are traveling, however, our guides will be well versed in First Aid, and we will get you to the most appropriate health care as quickly as possible.
Will we be required to take a test for COVID-19 or show that we have either recovered or recently been tested?
Yes, you will need to have a recent test for COVID-19 to show that you are not contagious (either recovered or negative).
What will happen if I’m found to have COVID (asymptomatic) while traveling in-country?
We will need to take the proper measures as stated by each country’s health ministry, which will include mandatory quarantine. We will also need to inform the health ministry of your positive COVID status.
Will there be portions where the protocols are relaxed, for example wearing a mask while hiking?
As of right now, the use of a mask is obligatory in all public areas, including with hikes. We will follow all of the regulations in order to keep you as well as our guides, porters, etc. as safe as possible.
Are there different measures for adventure activities such as horseback riding, trekking, mountain biking, etc.?
Depending on the activity, there may be different measures required. We will be sure to communicate what those measures are before you arrive to South America.
How does the pandemic effect the costs of the trip?
This is currently unknown, and will be subject to many factors. The economic instability may bring prices down, however added costs due to increased sanitation measures may bring them up.
We are doing everything we can to keep prices lower, though it will remain to be seen where they settle.
Is there a chance we may get stranded while traveling if there is another lockdown?
While this is difficult to determine, we are prepared for such a situation should it occur due to our experience back in March, when the lockdowns were first implemented.
You can be certain that your health and safety is our number one priority, and so we will do everything needed in order to keep you as safe and secure as possible.