Updated WAI Policy regarding Illness on Tour
July 28, 2022
WAI is thrilled to be traveling once again. Since summer of 2020, we have successfully led 24 tours, first with small group van tours in the USA, then gradually expanding to 18-person, then 22-person bus tours across America, to Costa Rica, and to Morocco! We are so happy to be reconnecting with our world and sharing this amazing planet with WAI travelers!
Life is about tradeoffs, dealing with risk, and making good choices. Like many things in life, travel comes with some risk. Of course, the most conspicuous recent risk travelers are managing is COVID-19. We believe the benefits of travel far outweigh the risks of any illness on tour. To join us for a Walking Adventure, we believe you must feel this way as well.
As with other viruses, COVID-19 continues to mutate and produce new variants. Earlier this Spring we were hopeful that we were reaching herd immunity and would be able to continue traveling without the need to address these new variants.
For the most part, we continue to believe new variants are not game changers. However, the latest variant, BA 5, is getting enough attention that we feel the need to clarify WAI policy.
Illness while traveling is as old as travel itself. Any WAI guide will tell you that an introduction of a bug to the Adventure is frustrating because we know it can adversely affect the individual traveler’s experience, and sometimes others in the group as well. And any WAI guide will tell you that this was not an uncommon experience, prior to March of 2020.
Our approach to illness on tour has traditionally been to encourage travelers to:
- Focus on health before the tour so you start healthy
- Pace yourself while on tour; travel is inherently stimulating and can produce adrenalin boosts that mask energy drain. Guard your energy reserves and consider the length of the trip and whether to opt out of some activities and/or walks.
- Be self-aware regarding your health. If you feel yourself tiring or feel a bug coming on, take precautions to block it (e.g. extra rest, extra doses of vitamin C, etc).
- Distance yourself from others when possible if you feel a bug coming on or if you take ill.
- Isolate yourself towards the back of the bus and away from others if you feel ill.
The only advice we now add to this previous list is to wear a mask if you are ill or feel an illness coming on. We suggest a medical grade mask such as the KN95 or N95 mask.
The Omicron BA 5 variant has recently become the dominant strain and is known as the most contagious of the variants. For this reason, and because of anecdotal reports we have recently received from other tour companies, we may encounter BA 5 at some point during our tour together. However, this strain appears to be the least severe of all to date.
To test or not to test? Because symptoms of BA 5 do not appear to be overly threatening and are similar in type and severity to the common cold, WAI guides will not attempt to identify or differentiate between bugs. If a traveler has symptoms, we will encourage the traveler to follow the above listed WAI traditional protocols, including the added protocol of wearing a mask. We will not ask travelers to test.
In fact, if a traveler feels the need to test themselves, and reveals a positive COVID-19 test result to a WAI guide, the guide will then be obligated to comply with local regulations. In most cases this means separating from the group and quarantining for a period of time. That would mean leaving the tour in order to quarantine with the resulting termination of your trip and the additional quarantine hotel costs.
In May 2022, WAI determined to follow the lead of many countries, local jurisdictions, and nationwide businesses in dropping all internally mandated mitigation procedures. With the exception of travelers who are ill, as noted above, the primary impact of this change in policy is that WAI will no longer require the wearing of masks on our bus unless it is required by the country or local jurisdiction in which we travel. Wearing of masks, so far as WAI is concerned, is optional.
Compliance with Local Regulations: Compliance of WAI travelers to requirements made by local authorities of the countries and jurisdictions through which we travel is a given. If a country, for example, still requires proof of vaccination (e.g. Costa Rica, Morocco, Fiji), travelers will need to comply. If COVID-19 testing is a condition of travel, compliance is required.
For the time being, WAI will post a paragraph on each tour webpage under the MORE DETAILS section detailing “COVID-19 Policies for This Tour”. This information will detail what is known at the time of publication about COVID-19 policies at the destination and whether compliance action is required by the traveler.
Please feel free to reach out with questions ([email protected]).
Our WAI guide teams routinely manage health concerns while on tour. We strive to keep you and your fellow travelers as safe and healthy as possible, while simultaneously immersing you in the history, culture, and scenery of your chosen destination.
We love planning experiential travel for you! We love experiencing our world with you!
WAI has operated tours for over 30 years, and we are well practiced in adapting nimbly to evolving circumstances. Although small, our team, both in the field and in the office, is world-class. Every tour relies on 24/7 support from our home office. Local WAI partners are reliable, responsive and effective. Our ongoing commitment is to respond consistently to all unforeseen events with professionalism, compassion, and competence. Thank you for being part of the Adventure!