In a welcome sign travel is slowly returning to normalcy, Tauck has operated its first tour departures since the outbreak of COVID-19 last March.
The Connecticut-based tour operator recently completed its initial “Wonderland: Yellowstone in Winter” itineraries of the New Year, with additional departures of the eight-day Montana and Wyoming national parks tour scheduled for February.
In order to do so, Tauck implemented safety and health protocols across all its 2021 tours and cruises, including the mandatory use of masks, social distancing when possible, and enhanced cleaning and disinfection procedures developed in close cooperation with its hoteliers, restaurateurs, and other partners.
Each guest is also required to complete and sign a Travel Well Pledge. This health screening form confirms that guests have tested negative for Covid-19 within five days of departure, are free of virus-related symptoms, and have not been in close contact with anyone diagnosed with Covid-19.
Joanne Gardner, vice president of worldwide operations, said Tauck took a very thorough approach to its restart efforts.
“Prior to our first trips, we ran a complete training tour with myself and Tauck directors,” Gardner told Travel Market Report. “This was an invaluable to operating and we’re going to continue to invest in these efforts. Whether it’s a complete run-through or working alongside our partners on the ground to make sure it’s safe and our partners are compliant.”
The departure of “Yellowstone in Winter” took guests inside Yellowstone National Park four days, as well as Grand Teton National Park and an overnight at the Chico Hot Springs Resort plus two nights at The Wort Hotel in Jackson, Wyoming.
Gardner said that guests on the trip came prepared for COVID-19 related-protocols, thanks to multiple touch points Tauck sent so they had a good understanding of what to expect.
Per feedback by the Tauck Director guides who accompanied the first departures, the guests embraced the assurance and confidence the safety measures fostered.
“Feedback has been excellent,” Gardner said. “The comment cards had usual kudos about the experience – we feel if these first trips are any indication, we’re in a good position to achieve the ability to deliver a safe experience but also something that is in line with the brand and what our guests have come to expect from Tauck.”
Looking ahead, Gardner said Tauck is “reassessing our launch for the coming months” as it gauges the “viability of our remaining tours, where can we go, where is it safe, and where can we deliver that quality experience.”
Of course, the ever-changing climate presents its challenges.
“Staying on top of all that globally requires a tremendous amount of flexibility with our partners, our guests, and our staff. “We put in place a process early on, and the fundamentals of the process, the criteria for when it’s safe to operate, all of that still applies today. It is quite remarkable that the way we started operating is still the way were operating today.”
“Guests are eager to return to travel,” Gardner said. In fact, according to Tauck, over 60% of its 2021 capacity is already reserved and they’re optimistic as reservations are coming in for 2022 and even 2023. While domestic tours will likely be back first, Private Departures are available on more than 70 land journeys spanning Exotic destinations, Europe, North America, will be particularly appealing in the post-COVID-19 era of travel.
“One saying we use a lot is ‘It’s not a question of if, but a question of when.’ We are very confident we will come back and we will come back strong. Some factors are out of our control, but what is within our control is going to provide us with a strong base for rebound.”