I recently had the great privilege of being invited to attend a “return to cruising” workshop onboard one of the cruise lines that Cruises International represents on board in the Mediterranean this October – this entailed travel to 2 foreign countries and a cruise. It was business of course, but what a pleasure it was for me to spread my wings again and experience international travel as it is now. We need to realise that if international travel ever returns to exactly how it was, it will be a very long time and we need to move forward positively accepting that there is a “new norm” for travel. It will be better to accept and embrace this than to miss out entirely on the joy and the importance of doing business on a one to one, in-person basis.
With this in mind, I thought that I could take advantage of my recent bird’s eye view of travel in this new era and try to give you some pertinent advice if you are soon to be embarking on any form of travel internationally.
Try to plan more!
The travel industry is still in a state of flux and my personal estimate is that it will be for at least another 6 months, depending of course to what extent COVID-19 may rear its ugly head again! I went only to 2 different countries, Italy and Spain, and on an ocean liner, and in all three cases legislation is different and there are complicated processes to go through, so planning well ahead and having your Travel Advisor inform you as best as possible is absolutely essential. For example, Spain and the Cruise ships have apps that you need to have to complete your protocols and Italy has complicated forms to complete. Also remember that Italy and Spain were badly affected by the pandemic, like South Africa, so they observe the same sort of precautionary processes like wearing masks everywhere and social distancing.
Know your whereabouts and have passes on you
One unexpected difficulty that I faced was that Italy also have a “green pass” for transit through the country but, South Africa is not recognised on this so it was fortunate that I had both my virtual and my actual vaccination certificates on me. You need to be very aware of the fact that the handling of things is not encouraged anywhere so remember the simple things too, like having your own pen on you (and do have spares) as it is unlikely that anyone not knowing you, your Covid status or country of origin will lend you one.
The reality is that this new norm of travel, as it stands right now, slows things down quite significantly and so, as with better planning of all the protocols you will face, you also need to plan and allow for more time at every juncture. Don’t, whatever you do, throw your toys out the cot if you feel you are being unnecessarily delayed, because tolerance levels amongst health officers, in particular, are very low and you are likely to just face more delays if you are not compliant and unwilling to co-operate. Also, do remember that all members of the travel industry have been subjected to a very trying time. Many have lost jobs and the remaining “skeleton staff” in some cases are overworked and dealing with complex, trying issues. Do spare a thought for these people. A smile, a kind word and again, some patience, will go a long way to having the same courtesy extended to you.
Reach out to your Travel Advisor
I know I have mentioned this many times in these articles but never more was it driven home to me that even as someone operating within the industry, believing that I had all the armoury I would need to face this barrage of travel protocols, the advice and assistance of my Travel Advisors was critical. The advice I can give is to reach out to a travel professional before embarking on such a trip and gratefully accept whatever advice and assistance they can give you. With all the necessary information and available technology at their fingertips, one needs to let them intertwine those fingers with yours and hold your hand throughout the travel process. You’ll be very glad you did.
It’s all worth it!
Was it worth it? (yes, I know that is the question you are asking) – absolutely! To feel the freedom of winging your way to foreign lands, the sights and smells of different worlds, the peace of mind experienced on a vast ocean as you live in the lap of luxury on a five star floating hotel – these are great privileges after the Covid cocoons we have recently lived in. The most important thing of all, however, is that one simply cannot replace the entirely different level of relationships that are built through face to face interactions with clients and fellow industry professionals. Business travel may have been in limbo – and to a certain extent still is, but it will never be replaced or die. I can’t wait to go again – Bon voyage!LIDIA FOLLI
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER