UPDATED: July 31, 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 programs as appropriate. Your Program Leader will communicate any changes necessary. Above all else, WorldStrides is committed to student safety, and as new information on the spread of coronavirus becomes available, we will not hesitate to make any changes needed.
We will continue to focus on programs with most imminent departure dates first. If your tour, event, or program is scheduled for fall or later, we recommend you wait to see how the situation develops before making any decisions.
Travel with Confidence
How will our experiences be modified for safety?
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.
How is WorldStrides handling the financial impact of the pandemic on the travel industry?
We are pleased to have reached an agreement with our lenders and owners on a recapitalization that will strengthen the Company’s financial position. This recapitalization will support WorldStrides’ ongoing business operations and the continued payment of cash refunds to travelers whose trips and programs were impacted by COVID-19 and were unable to join a rescheduled trip. See answers to commonly asked questions about this here.
We look forward to continuing our successful 50-year history offering innovative programs and transformative experiences for our participants around the world.
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 are providing take 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 and unusual task has taken time, and we appreciate your patience so far.
We have provided refunds to tens of thousands of families already, and expect to do so for tens of thousands more this summer.
Unfortunately, our systems were not designed for this situation, and we’ve worked hard to adjust. 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 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.