Roadmap to Recovery Travel Weekly webcasts: Risk and opportunity were among the themes ESCORTED TOUR OPERATORS


Zina Bencheikh Phil Hullah Niel Alobaidi

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‘Make a mistake and you hurt the whole industry’


scorted touring specialists say they feel a responsibility to the travel industry to ensure

a safe return to holidays to rebuild confidence. Niel Alobaidi, Newmarket

Holidays’ chief executive, said detailed preparations had been made to resume tours amid the pandemic in a session with other members of the Association of Touring & Adventure Suppliers (Atas). He was joined by fellow Atas

members to discuss how the sector is working on Covid-19 protocols. “We’re very conscious that we’ve

got a responsibility to the industry,” said Alobaidi. “We have got to build confidence across the industry. “Anyone who makes mistakes

damages it not just for themselves but for the whole industry. So there is pressure, and there is a lot we’re doing to try and avoid being that person who makes that mistake.” Other sectors such as cruise and

aviation have been in the headlines as passengers on ships and aircraft have contracted the virus in recent weeks.

10 10 SEPTEMBER 2020 Intrepid Travel’s EMEA managing

director, Zina Bencheikh, said the operator was making detailed risk assessments for each element of each itinerary, such as local transport, accommodation and dining. She said tour guides could make

last-minute changes; for example, if a restaurant did not appear to be Covid-secure, the guide could switch to a safer alternative. “There is no zero risk in travel in

any form. We are here to mitigate the risk, to bring confidence,” she said. “Having customers booking through the agent is giving a lot of structure and confidence that the travel experience would be a good one.” Phil Hullah, chief executive

of Riviera Travel, said his firm was sending head office staff on reconnaissance tours to “test out” destinations. “It makes a massive difference if they or one of their colleagues has been on one of these trips and actually knows what it’s like at the airport, or how great it is in Lake Garda, when there’s nobody there,” he said. “Building confidence is a key thing.”

Gus Antorcha Weekly’s Lucy Huxley

‘Longer voyages could be safe in their own Covid bubble’


ruise ships operating longer voyages could effectively become “bubbles” and sail safely

for long periods of time, according to the boss of Holland America Line. President Gus Antorcha said:

“Look at New Zealand – it’s a bubble. They took all these precautions and they eradicated the virus there for a while. And life was very much normal for two, three months. “In some ways a longer voyage

can be perceived that way. If we really create a bubble on the ship, that could go for a very long period of time.” Antorcha, who was appointed

in July, acknowledged issues could arise at ports of call. “It comes down to what countries you are visiting, what protocols they have and what protocols you have for people to go out. All that stuff needs to be worked out. But if you’re visiting places where there are low infection rates, then there’s relatively low risk,” he said. Antorcha said the pandemic

had “accelerated the opportunity to manage capacity” on Holland America

If you’re visiting

places where there are low infection rates, then there’s relatively low risk

Line’s fleet by selling off some of its older tonnage. The line is selling four

of its older ships but will add the new Rotterdam to the fleet on July 30, 2021. “The portfolio we are ending

up with is right for the brand,” he said, adding that smaller ships had “a cherished role” at HAL, offering “unique itineraries”, while larger ships were “more efficient”. And Antorcha said he was

“hopeful” that HAL would be sailing again by the Christmas holidays, and might be able to start some cruises before December 15 – the date up to when sailings are currently cancelled. Measures being put in place for

the line’s return were “evolving all the time”, he said, adding: “[Christmas] is an important time for families and we want to make sure we offer them the ability to celebrate together.”

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