The worldwide Covid-19 epidemic may present some challenges to your holiday plans.
All the popular sailing destinations remain on the UK’s amber list except Turkey which is on the red list. Quite why we are banned from visiting countries with lower infection rates than we have is unclear. Why not email Mr Shapps and ask. You have more chance of catching Covid in some of the UK holidays destinations
If you are already booked
Yacht operators are still generally allowing rescheduling if your destination is on the amber list. However, a number are now insisting you pay your balance as originally scheduled first. This is in part due to one or two customers (not mine I’m sure) taking advantage of their flexibility, and in part I suspect because they need some cash flow.
For those worried about travelling to amber destinations be aware that Ministers advice not to travel is not always even shared by their own Foreign & Commonwealth Office who run the Government’s travel advice website. They specifically don’t advise against travel to Rhodes, Kos, Zakynthos, Corfu and Crete!
To travel to an amber country you generally need either proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test no more than 24 hours before you travel. Before returning you need either a PCR or Lateral Flow test. PCR tests can be organised one you’re there, or you can buy a Lateral Flow test to take with you. Before returning you need to arrange 2 PCR tests to be taken during your 10 day isolation period.
Top tip – don’t book your UK tests with the cheapest providers. They are the ones most likely to be overwhelmed and fail to deliver results back on time.
Thinking of booking?
There is some availability in Mallorca for those that want a green list destination. I suspect this will fill rapidly.
Availability elsewhere is getting very tight for September. It’s always the most popular month and this year is also full of people who were due to travel last year.
Unfortunately, our European friends do not suffer the same travel restrictions the UK Government has imposed and are filling the schedules rapidly. The good news is that flotillas and bareboats run through until the end of October, so there is still time to get in some sailing in the sun.
All flotillas, bareboat charters, courses and skippered cruises are at present expected to run from 17th May. For UK travellers, there remains the small matter of whether the Government will allow travel!
Please be aware that the travel industry knows as much about the UK Government’s plans as you do. So countries will be categorised as red, amber or green. And that’s it. That’s all we know. Messrs Johnson and Shapps won’t return my calls and probably don’t know any more themselves.
The UK will commence discussions with the EU about vaccine passports urgently ie starting next Monday. Their definition of urgent is evidently different to mine, given the topic has been floating around for at least 3 months! So following the example set by Brexit, I am not expecting details of plans until the 11th hour 59th minute.
If you are already booked
Please be aware that generally, operators are now expecting payments according to contractual dates and are only exceptionally allowing deferments. FAILURE TO PAY MAY RESULT IN CANCELLATION AND LOSS OF YOUR DEPOSIT. I have yet to come across a single operator who will not allow you to reschedule in the event that borders are closed to tourists either in your home country or at your destination. But if you don’t pay, they can’t pay their bills.
Thinking of booking?
Bookings from the UK are subdued and many (though not all) flight prices are cheap. But I expect this to change as soon as the Government gives the green light for tourist travel.
Schedules are already pretty full. This is in part because of the number of bookings moved from last year and partly because of European bookings. EU residents are busy booking as they expect limited (if any) restrictions on travel to the main sailing destinations.
If you book now, worst case you my have to reschedule. If you book later, you may have less choice and more cost. The choice is yours.
All flotillas, bareboat charters, courses and skippered cruises are at present expected to run as scheduled in 2021. This of course depends on air corridors re-opening, local lockdown rules etc. In the event that travel isn’t possible, it is expected that rescheduling to a later date will again be the order of the day. But with the arrival of vaccines imminent, hopefully things will be much easier in 2021.
The flotillas have all restarted and bareboat charters have resumed. As you would expect there are some changes to the way things work. In particular:
- You will need to fill out a Passenger Locator Form before you travel, so your host government has means to contact you.
- In some cases, you will need to self certify that you are Covid-19 free before you board.
- Enhanced cleaning regimes may slightly delay your boarding and contact at the base and during yacht briefings is being minimised.
Airlines are running reduced flight schedules so some regional departures may not be available.
Prices of both flights and yachts are best described as all over the place! There are some very keen deals to be had on flotillas and bareboats in some destinations but others are pretty full through September. This is largely due to those who were due to travel in the spring having moved their bookings to the autumn.
There are some bargain flight prices from the UK as airlines battle to tempt people away. For this you can thank Boris and his government for the continued uncertainty over foreign travel and failure to introduce airport testing. It seems our testing strategy is only world beating in as much as we seem to be entering a world of our own!
I am frequently asked what will happen if air corridors are closed after you book. Most operators have not declared a policy but I suspect most would return to the policies adopted during the lockdown period. I am happy to clarify with your supplier before you have to part with any money.
As always, I recommend taking out travel insurance as soon as you book your holiday, not leaving it until closer to your travel date. Many policies now include some element of Covid-19 cover.
When booking your flights, I suggest you also check the airline’s policy should you wish or be forced to change flight dates. If your flight is cancelled or you are prevented from travelling ddue to Government guidance you will in many cases be entitled to a refund. Please check with the airline direct.
Most operators have now ceased to offer rescheduling except for participants from countries still prevented from travelling by restrictions at either end. However, the following also acts as a guide to what will probably happen if restrictions are re-imposed.
There are minor differences between the different suppliers in terms of what they are offering. There is one common theme – none are offering refunds. Whilst it isn’t your fault your holiday may be impacted it isn’t theirs either.
For those prevented from travelling, suppliers are offering to reschedule bookings to later dates in the 2020 season, or to 2021, subject to availability. The usual booking change charges are being waived and there will be no extra charge unless you move to a more expensive date band (eg from October 2020 to August 2021). There is generally a willingness to be flexible – they would rather keep your booking for a later date than lose it altogether.
Most suppliers will only consider date changes once they are sure you will be unable to travel. They generally consider this to be no more than 4-6 weeks before travel. However, exceptions do arise with nationals likely to be subject to long term restrictions such as those from N Zealand and Australia. If in doubt contact me sooner rather than later.
Technically, your balance due date remains as before. However, suppliers are being flexible, either formally or informally. They understand you may not wish to commit the balance payment until you have rescheduled your trip. Generally (but not always), the balance due date will change in line with your revised travel date.
If you decide not to change travel dates, or can’t decide which date to change to, many suppliers are offering credit notes for use in 2020 or 2021. However, note that the price you will pay is that prevailing when you book, which may not be the same as this years booking.
If you decide to cancel your holiday, you will lose your deposit. You may be able to claim this back from your travel insurance, or if you paid by card, from your card provider. Please contact your insurers and card issuer for more information.
Before you change your yacht booking, you may want to check the situation regarding changes to your flights. Unless you have booked a flight inclusive package, you will need to check with the airline directly, or if you booked through an agent, check with them.
It is not clear to what extent infections will continue to spread, when governments will relax or re-impose border restrictions, nor how the outbreak will affect other providers of your holiday arrangements, notably the airlines.
As holidays go, sailing is arguably one of the safer options. For much of the time you will be confined only with your crew. Bear in mind too that tourism is a major earner for countries such as Greece, Croatia and Turkey who will be keen to welcome you.
Though all yacht and flotilla suppliers have seen a massive fall in bookings recently, I currently have no indication that any of those I work with are in financial jeopardy. They generally have the advantage that they are asset rich (the yachts) and as they employ a lot of casual staff, they have the ability to trim running costs more than many other industries. If you think their “no refunds” policy is unfair, bear in mind that many are not getting the level of Government support available (in theory) in the UK.
I hope the above provides some useful information. It is of necessity rather generalised. Please feel free to contact me for more specific details if I don’t contact you first. However please bear in mind I can only advise what the suppliers are offering now, which may change by the time your travel date is 4-6 weeks away. And until then there is no need to rush to a decision.
And most of all, will you all please keep safe and follow the rules, or you may not be going anywhere.