March 16th, 2020
The rapidly evolving situation regarding coronavirus (COVID-19) and public health efforts to contain its spread is on many people’s minds at the moment. The unprecedented measures that are being taken have thrown all our lives into some state of turmoil – even here on our small coastal island, those of us at Spirit of the West are all working from home or one at a time in the office as well. Travel is restricted to and from many parts of the world, including Canada, creating uncertainty in the travel plans of millions of people, whether it’s family visits, European vacations, or kayaking trips in British Columbia.
We want to assure our guests, partners, friends and family that we too are following developments closely and adjusting our practices to ensure the safety of our guests, staff, family and friends. For the coming 2020 season, our first BC trips don’t depart until the middle of June, almost 3 months from now, so it’s too early to say what, if any, impacts the coronavirus and related travel restrictions may have on our season. At this time we are maintaining our trip schedule as planned.
At all times your health and safety is our top priority.
In addition to our regular hygiene practices while on trip (such as strict hand washing, disinfecting communal surfaces, laundering rain gear and sleeping bags, etc.), we’ll be introducing more enhanced disinfection routines of common surfaces such as paddle shafts, thermarests (sleeping mats), dry bags, life jackets, storage bins, vehicles and so on. The nature of our trips lends itself nicely to “social distancing” as well, given the remote environments, open air, small groups (typically a maximum of 10 guests) and travel in appropriately-spaced pods of kayaks. Our guides are trained professionals in the field, and will ensure protocols are carried out consistently. Beyond hygiene, we’re proactive on the water with risk management and preparation, assessing weather conditions and always carrying a range of communication devices, first aid kits, kayak rescue gear, emergency shelter and other gear.
If it is warranted, we may also implement a pre-trip screening to identify any participants that might be at an elevated risk when travelling with us (eg. travel to Level 3 risk countries within 14 days of the trip start or exhibiting flu-like symptoms).
To give you further confidence in our commitments we are introducing some more flexible terms and conditions for 2020:
- 60 day final payment policy: We are reducing the length of the final payment period to 60 days from 90 days prior to a trip start. This gives you more time to consider your travel plans before making the final payment on a trip.
- Flexible change policy: If travel doesn’t seem feasible for you this year, we are welcoming up to two trip or date changes with no fees. 2020 tour reservations may be rebooked up to the end of next season (September 2021). Requests for date changes may be made up to 30 days in advance of the trip departure, after which the cancellation policy will apply. Rebooking depends on the availability of the future date; if changing trip types you will be charged (or refunded) the difference in trip cost. For rebooked tours, the future booking will be subject to the cancellation terms that applied to the original reservation at the time of rebooking (ie., eligible for refund less cancellation fee if rebooked prior to 60 days before the original reservation or eligible for 50% refund if rebooked 59-30 days prior to the original reservation).
- Guaranteed single tents: Paddlers that request single accommodation will be given their own tent, with no single supplement fee.
If we have to cancel a tour you will be offered the option to transfer the balance of your trip cost to another departure, receive a gift certificate in the amount of the tour cost or a full refund. Regardless, travel insurance is an essential part of trip planning and we strongly recommend that our guests purchase a policy and check the coverage carefully. Please review our recent blog post for more detailed information on travel cancellation, interruption and medical coverage. If you choose to cancel your reservation when the trip is going ahead as planned, our usual cancellation terms will apply. You should be able to claim insurance if there is a government travel advisory, flights are cancelled, family member is sick or other eventuality. A “cancel for any reason policy” gives you even more flexibility.
Below are some links to resources we are monitoring that you may find helpful in planning your trip:
- BC Centre for Disease Control
- World Health Organization
- Government of Canada Travel Health notices
- Government of Canada coronavirus updates
- BC Ministry of Health updates
As the global situation around coronavirus and COVID-19 continues to change we will reassess our response and post further updates.
All of the above notwithstanding, we’re excited for the coming season and looking forward to spending time with our guests out on the water. The weather is warming, wildlife is being spotted daily in the waters nearby our base here on Quadra Island and the kayak fleet out our window is ready to go. Stay healthy and look after each other, we’ll get through this together.
Rick, Breanne and the Spirit of the West crew