Last updated: May 14, 2020
We continue to monitor the coronavirus (COVID-19) with the support of our medical and risk management partners.
Here are some answers to questions we are frequently hearing from customers:
Will my future tour, event, or program be cancelled?
We have worked with Program Leaders to postpone most programs for spring, and early summer. We are working with Program Leaders to discuss the best option for each group (including the option to reschedule for future travel), handling each on a case-by-case basis. We will work with each Program Leader to communicate any changes necessary to families. We are committed to student safety, and as new information becomes available, we will not hesitate to make changes, if needed.
We will continue to work on programs with most imminent departure dates first. If your tour, event, or program is scheduled for August or later, we recommend you wait to see how the situation develops before making any decisions.
If the tour or event I’m signed up for is rescheduled, what would that look like?
Our team is actively working to identify safety plans for travel programs and events in a new world with coronavirus considerations. Our “Back-to-Travel” task force is meeting regularly to evaluate changes that might be necessary and prudent for this environment, including adjustments to our traditional way of doing things that allow for a focus on hygiene and social distancing.
You should expect the same incredible experienced staff, engaging educational activities, and the support of our global team for your group whenever your tour or program happens. We will determine tour dates and location (if different from your original tour), in collaboration with your Program Leader.
Some other actions we are taking include:
- We’ve been in touch with motorcoach, restaurant, and hotel partners to understand what additional measures they are considering to prevent the spread of germs.
- We are procuring supplies like hand sanitizer and masks to use in the future.
- We are developing additional training for our staff. This training will address a range of topics related to hygiene, prevention, and response in this era.
- In consultation with our Medical Director, Dr. Neal Sikka, who leads our Doctors on Call program from the George Washington University Department of Emergency Medicine, we’ve revised our health and safety protocols, outlining how to immediately engage our resources if COVID-19 is suspected. This includes developing specific plans for how we work with Doctors on Call in this scenario, and outlining how to engage local health professionals to determine if other steps are necessary.
How are you making decisions about when and where to support travel or events in the near future?
Our Health and Safety team has been actively monitoring the impact that COVID-19 is having on the communities in which we operate programs as well as the CDC’s guidance for travel, events, and schools. This includes continuous communication with our many partners around the world about closures that impact our ability to deliver culturally-rich programs. Location-specific guidance from health officials, paired with more general guidance for schools, events, and travel, is helping us define guidelines that we can follow to help make our future programs as safe as possible. In nearly all of our program locations, we have local staff who provide additional information for consideration by our Health & Safety Team.
What refund will I get if I need to cancel?
If you aren’t able to join a rescheduled trip or program, we are providing generous cash refunds to those travelers whose trips were impacted by COVID-19. The amount of the refund varies based on factors including travel protection that you purchased and the amount you have paid toward your program. Due to the number of refunds being processed at this time, we ask for your understanding regarding the timing of your refund, which will be processed in order, based on your program’s original departure date. To get more specific information on timing, please reference materials provided by your Program Leader or call our team.
We’ve continued to advocate for our families by working with our vendors and other partners, and we are proud to be offering refunds in a difficult time for families.
Note that if you cancelled at a time when WorldStrides was not yet communicating the option for a cash refund, you do not need to contact customer support to alter your account. We will automatically process the cash refund applicable to your situation, if we have already received your request to cancel in writing. The refund will be returned on the same method of payment by which you paid.
What are your non-recoverable costs?
The small percentage that we have not returned as part of our refunds helps to cover some of our non-recoverable costs. Many of you have asked what these costs are. Your experience with WorldStrides begins well before you depart for the travel program we planned for you. Many of you have likely interacted with our experienced and dedicated full-time staff. Our teams work with teachers to select the itinerary that matches your groups’ needs, help our customers navigate flexible payment options, and of course, find and book travel components like hotels and airline tickets that make the experience possible. As an organization that is accredited just like your school, we have a high bar for our educational content, and we have a dedicated team that develops educational activities and materials, hires and trains our incredible Tour Directors and Course Leaders, and creates printed curriculum materials like Discovery Journals. The timing of the spread of the coronavirus was challenging, since all of these investments were made with the expectation of an exciting tour season. These internal and external costs, along with some unrecoverable payments we made to vendors, far exceed the money we will collect this year. Read more about how group travel booking works from the Student and Youth Travel Association.
Why can’t my refund be processed and sent immediately?
The refunds we have committed to over the course of the next few months are not common in the student or group travel industry and providing them takes careful planning from across the organization. We continue to work to recover money from vendors for payments we made on your behalf. Aligning our finances and our processes to our new virtual work environment and this substantial task has taken time, and we appreciate your patience so far.
We have begun providing refunds, and expect to do so for tens of thousands of families. Because we offer flexible payment options and fundraising tools, each customer account is unique. Our customers pay with an average of ten installments, and our merchant services agreements with financial institutions require that we issue refunds for each method of payment that was used. This work requires specialists who assess and refund each account by hand to ensure we provide the refund you are anticipating.
We know how important it is to you that we get your refund right, and that’s why we’ve developed a detailed schedule to allow our experts to work through the considerable task. To be fair, and also efficient, we organized this process by trip date, and are working quickly through each departure month.
What if a student gets sick while traveling?
Travelers do sometimes fall ill while traveling, which is why we have invested in our Doctors on Call partnership with the George Washington University Department of Emergency Medicine. We recognize that new protocols will be necessary to address the public health realities of COVID-19. In the event that a student becomes sick, we are refining our best practices to allow the student to rest, and avoid spreading germs, and, where appropriate, seek additional guidance or care from our Doctors on Call.
In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19), we are working to develop additional guidance and protocols in consultation with Dr. Neal Sikka, who leads our Doctors on Call program at the George Washington University Department of Emergency Medicine. He and his team will work with our team to evaluate each sickness and determine if the individual has been exposed to COVID-19. Where appropriate, we will immediately engage local health authorities.
Dr. Sikka advises that if a person is feeling ill, it is essential not to wait until an individual is very sick to seek advice and help. COVID-19 is an influenza-like illness. Like the flu, most people who get COVID-19 will only need rest and over the counter medications to recover fully. However, immediate care helps to avoid the unlikely situation that a person might become very sick and need to go to a clinic or hospital to get better.
What can I do to stay healthy?
To keep yourself and others safe and healthy:
- Comply with special instructions issued by local officials, including social distancing and wearing a mask when in public.
- Adhere to known, effective best practices to minimize your chance of catching respiratory infections:
- Do not touch any part of your face without first washing your hands.
- Avoid contact with persons who are already ill.
- Avoid unnecessary touching of other persons (e.g. shaking hands in greeting) and limit touching publicly-shared surfaces, where possible.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Carry hand sanitizer (60-95% alcohol) and use it for situations where hand washing might not be possible.
- When you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth with a tissue or in your elbow.