Our Back to Travel Task Force
Getting back to travel is not just our passion; we believe it is an educational imperative, and that view is shared by so many of the students, teachers, Program Leaders, and parents we travel with each year.
COVID-19 means we have to do things a little differently for the time being at least. In April, WorldStrides’ Health and Safety leadership formed a Back to Travel Task Force to establish guidelines around safely returning to travel and program operation in the new COVID-19 world.
Since then, we have been meeting several times a week as a full group, and in sub-committees, to discuss, plan, and document our approach to programming going forward. Together, we have decades of experience working in student travel and I’m grateful for the rich expertise of these professionals and the excellent sharing across business units that helps to inform our work. We’re reviewing information from the CDC, WHO, and many education organizations, leading school districts, and travel industry experts, who are also outlining safety measures for COVID-19. Our work is iterative, and we will continue to update our plans as more is known about the virus. Below is more detail about our sub-committees.
This group’s main focus is to define and track the minimum requirements necessary for WorldStrides to feel confident supporting travel to or in a specific destination. To accomplish this, we have created a detailed matrix comprised of 75 cities across Australia, Canada, the U.S. and the rest of the world, closely monitoring factors such as COVID-19 outbreaks; local, state and country reopening plans; entry restrictions; flight availability; and governmental warning levels. To do this, we are constantly reviewing data from sources such as the WHO, CDC, ECDC, U.S. Department of State, WorldStrides’ security providers, WorldStrides’ global offices and partners, foreign governments, and open source outlets. This matrix will be used to determine where WorldStrides will operate in Fall 2020 and Spring 2021.
Additionally, this working group is defining enterprise-wide guidelines for COVID-19 mitigation measures intended to take travelers all the way from pre-departure preparation to their return home. This includes training, procuring supplies, and working closely with our Medical Director, Dr. Sikka, to outline protocols for preventing, and, if necessary, responding to an incident of COVID-19 symptoms when our programs begin again. The guidelines set by this group help set the foundation for the other working groups, and for our divisions to build on for the unique needs of their programs and participants.
Domestic and International Tours
This group is actively tracking key cities and site openings around the globe to determine when we can offer our quality travel programs led by teachers, coaches, music directors, and community leaders through WorldStrides, Explorica, Brightspark, and Jumpstreet. We have established supplier forums within each service area and drafted action plans for new protocols and precautions to help promote traveler safety, some of which is detailed here. Many suppliers are implementing social distancing requirements, improving cleaning protocols, and learning how to deliver high quality services in this new environment.
Higher Ed Programs
This group is focused on developing solutions to facilitate study abroad and faculty-led programs for university-level participants. Its work has included close collaboration with our host institutions abroad and collecting information regarding anticipated changes to academics and student life for upcoming program terms. The Higher Ed group is also addressing specific questions related to multi-destination programs, housing, academic contingency plans, and independent student travel, among others. Finally, this group is engaged in on-going dialogue with our home university partners to understand their needs and their outlook on international travel. As we look ahead, Higher Ed will continue to gather information from our local partners and resident staff members as well as host institutions abroad.
Individual Registrant Programs
The work of this group will provide guidance for operating many of our individual student programs, such as Envision career exploration summer programs and the Honors Performance Series. This includes creating new procedures and protocols, much like schools are doing, to bring students together for programs as early as this January. This also means examining aspects of the curriculum to re-configure or replace activities to meet the challenges of the new environment. Finally, we’re collaborating with our sites, which include college campuses, to understand their plans, requirements, and new protocols.
Performing Arts and Events Programs
This committee focuses on events hosted or facilitated by WorldStrides, Brightspark, and World Class Vacations brands. Their work is focused on overcoming the risks associated with multiple schools coming together for a single event, as well as some specific issues that are unique to performing arts groups. This group is working together to restructure event program check-in processes, closing/awards ceremonies, and group-to-group interactions as needed. Additionally, the group is staying on top of evolving health recommendations and the latest creative strategies for allowing performers to sing and play instruments together given concerns around increased aerosolization.
We believe that every travel experience is a journey of possibilities. We will continue our work, determined to carry out our mission: enabling students to see beyond the classroom and to see the world – and themselves – in new ways.