Traveling During Times of Crisis
At Trova, we don’t just expect the unexpected…we have a plan to deal with it
Chances are, as part of the Trova community, you love exploring the world. And whether you’ve got a passport full of stamps or you’ve only recently been bitten by the travel bug, we all know that the best experiences usually happen outside our comfort zones.
But what does that mean for us as travelers – and humans in general – when there’s a global crisis?
What can we do when a city we love is devastated by natural disasters or the country we’re planning to visit is rocked by violence? Whose voice can we trust when media and government entities (and the Internet) offer conflicting perspectives? And how do we decide when to carry on with a trip or readjust our plans?
At Trova, these questions come up frequently from Hosts and Travelers, so we wanted to share our process and thinking with you all in case it helps with your decision-making.
The best defense is a good Trip Operator
Before any incident occurs, before our Travelers have arrived at a destination, and even before the Host has started selling their trip, a significant amount of work and research goes into setting trips up for safety and security. We partner with local Trip Operators to bring TrovaTrips to life—and a key component of their vetting process involves reviewing their crisis management systems.
No matter the size of a Trip Operator, they have to apply and go through our formal review process. We have a robust questionnaire and interview to filter for safety and quality—looking at things like incident/crisis management plans, insurance levels, sustainability practices, employment practices, and local impact processes.
All this to say, our Trip Operators and their Guides are trained in crisis management and know what steps to take to ensure safety when things happen on the ground. Having vetted, savvy, and safety-oriented partners is key in any travel scenario.
What’s the right move when things go wrong?
1. Safety first!
When we hear about an incident with an active TrovaTrip in the area, the first thing we do is ensure we have every Traveler, Host, Guide, and Operator we work with accounted for. Our Trip Experience and Executive teams reach out to folks on the ground until we can confirm our customers and colleagues are safe, with a plan in place for next steps as necessary.
To ensure we prioritize those with immediate needs, we may respond with a ‘holding statement’ to other concerned parties who reach out. For example, if you hear about an earthquake in the area you’re preparing to travel to, it’s natural to ask if the trip is still happening. In these situations, our policy is to let you know everything we can, as quickly as possible. However, in the immediate aftermath of a crisis, often all we’re able to tell you is that we’re in the information-gathering process (waiting to hear back from our local Operators, for example) and that we’ll follow up with more soon.
We know it’s frustrating to wait for answers, but we promise you’ll only be in a holding pattern until we have reliable information to pass along! Until then, your patience and empathy are very, very appreciated by our team while we work to ensure the safety of our community and gain helpful insights.
2. Connect with Hosts
This step often happens at the same time as safety checks. Someone from our team will reach out to Hosts with upcoming trips, starting with the trips that are happening soonest. In times of crisis, we like to get on the phone with soon-to-be departing Hosts as quickly as possible to field questions and let them know what’s next, whether it’s finalizing plans or figuring out dates to reschedule the trip.
Being caught in Host limbo is frustrating and scary, but we promise you won’t be facing it alone. No matter what, providing Hosts with information and offering guidance for communicating with Travelers is a priority.
3. Rearrange as needed
Once we’re certain folks on the ground are safe, we’ve touched base with our impacted groups, and we’ve heard from Trip Operators with plans/recommendations, we swing into action! In some cases, there are no changes required. In others, we’ll shift trip departures to a new date, working with each Host directly to find the best options for their community. And in select cases, we may simply need to alter part of an itinerary to avoid an impacted area.
4. Listen to the locals and pass it on
After processing recommendations from our Operators and their governments, we’ll be ready to share official next steps with Hosts, Travelers, and anyone who reaches out to Customer Support. Nothing matters more to us than the safety and security of our community, and we take our response to any crisis very seriously from both a logistics and human point of view. If folks feel worried about traveling to a destination or alterations to the plan, we’ll always look for ways to inform them about not only what decision has been made but why. Sometimes, this means putting a call together with trip attendees and the local Guide to talk about what’s happening on the ground or leaning on recent Hosts and Travelers to share their firsthand experiences in the area.
5. Monitor, share, learn
The end of a crisis doesn’t mean everything can just go back to the way it was. We’re constantly listening to Operators, Travelers, and Hosts about how we can improve communications and provide clarity around our decisions. We hope this blog is an example of that and the transparency you can expect from Trova during times of uncertainty.
Cancellations and Crises
Often, the immediate reaction to hearing about something bad happening in the area you’re about to visit is to want to cancel the trip. And sometimes that’s the right call, in which case Trova will lead the decision to reschedule or cancel. But when the Trip Operators and local partners report that a trip should continue as planned based on their due diligence, we want to ensure we honor our commitments to those folks and the great work they do. And depending on the situation, being a responsible, respectful, and compassionate tourist can actually be the best way to support an impacted economy.
Given the nuance of different disasters, it’s hard to say beforehand with any certainty what adjustments to the cancellation policy might look like. Still, we’ll always communicate the decisions we make (and why) as those events arise. However, there is one specific case in which you can always expect cancellation and refunds to be an option: Force Majeure.
What is Force Majeure, and why does it matter?
In times of global crisis, you’ll hear this serious-sounding phrase quite often. Generally, ‘Force Majeure’ refers to unforeseeable circumstances that can prevent you from fulfilling a contract (such as an agreement to deliver a trip for you and 15 of your closest friends). In a case of Force Majeure, TrovaTrips will be rescheduled or canceled with no financial or legal penalties.
Whether or not an event is considered Force Majeure is ultimately up to two entities: our Trip Operators and/or local government entities. If one or both of these two determine that travel to and trips within a location are still safe to operate, we’ll continue as planned.
These circumstances or events are typically beyond anyone's control and can include:
- Global Pandemics: You may remember a little something called Covid-19.
- Natural Disasters: Events like volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, hurricanes, and tsunamis can disrupt travel plans by posing risks to traveler safety.
- Political Unrest: Civil conflicts, wars, or sudden changes in government policies can create unpredictable situations.
- Transportation Issues: Unforeseen events such as airport closures, airline strikes, or unexpected technical difficulties are a common cause of delays or cancellations.
Understanding the concept of Force Majeure is crucial because, when it comes into play, this contractual clause protects all parties. In other words, if a crisis or event constitutes Force Majeure, it allows for adjustment/cancellation of trips without financial or legal penalty for anyone. However, when incidents don’t rise to the level of Force Majeure or threaten the safety of our community, we try to maintain our standard cancellation and refund policy, as it protects our Trip Operators, Hosts, and other Travelers.
Take, for example, the recent earthquake in Morocco. It was a devastating event, and we canceled an upcoming trip in the immediate aftermath because our Trip Operators had not had time to assess the situation on the ground. Once the local community was confident — that all trips could be operated safely, and that Moroccans were eager for tourism to return as soon as possible — we resumed trips. Since it was not determined to be a Force Majeure event, we worked with Travelers and Hosts to address questions and concerns and move things forward.
Refund Flexibility (or, How To Book With Total Confidence)
“But, Trova, what if something happens and I personally can’t travel?” you might ask. Glad you did! Even if something doesn’t qualify as a Force Majeure event, there’s still a way to enjoy all-encompassing peace of mind when booking a trip: Purchasing Traveler Insurance that includes ‘cancel anytime’ coverage. That means no matter when you have to cancel or why, you’ll still receive a full refund. Best of all, you don’t have to hunt for it. Travelers can purchase insurance directly through TrovaTrip as part of the booking process before checking out. There are two choices:
- Base Insurance
- Base + Cancellation (this option includes ‘cancel anytime’)
Whether you opt for Base Insurance (covering things like lost/damaged luggage and medical needs) or Base + Cancellation coverage, we strongly recommend purchasing protection before any trip. While the insurance offerings on Trova’s site may only be available to certain states and age groups, you can also check out our friends at WorldNomads.com for additional coverage options.
Until next time, we wish you happy, fun, and, most of all, safe travels.