Travelling amid COVID-19

Mandy Latimore takes a look at what travel after lockdown might look like as the tourism industry takes steps to keep its customers safe

You all must be feeling as trapped and hemmed in as myself. This is the most time I’ve spent in my home without a break. It has been 53 days and counting! For those of you who are longing for some beautiful views (other than your own garden) and have access to the internet or social media, virtual tours might be your rescue.

Try virtual game drives that many lodges are offering – some on a daily basis. There are also virtual travel clips for venues, cities and countries on websites and Youtube. Happy internet couch surfing!

However, for those lucky few who have the relevant permits and will travel as soon as the lockdown allows, here are some protocols by the Tourism Business Council of South Africa to ensure the safety of staff and consumers.

These standards were developed in consultation with various industry stakeholders so that they are achievable and realistic. They are aligned with guidelines and advice from the World Health Organization, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the Department of Health. They discuss customer information, personal protective equipment (PPE), physical distancing, sanitisation and hygiene practices, among others, for staff and customers.

These protocols ensure that the crucial areas of concern for the government are addressed. These are:

Persons with higher risk

  1. Persons above 65 years of age may be asked not to visit establishments.
  2. Persons between 60 to 65 are recommended not to travel and visit establishments.
  3. Persons with high-risk health issues are recommended not travel and visit these establishments.
  4. Self-catering establishments can operate for high-risk guests travelling by private car or a car hire.
  5. High-risk staff will be allocated to smaller shifts and lower risk areas, be given additional PPE (such as visors) and will work from home where possible.

Limiting the risk of transmission between districts and provinces

  1. To travel from home to and from an accommodation establishment, proof of booking must be carried. Directions or a map of the route is also recommended.
  2. Customers should stop only to purchase fuel or other items at a petrol station or permitted retail operation en-route.
  3. Only people visiting accommodation establishments in private vehicles or car hire vehicles may cross provincial borders.

Ability to trace contact with COVID-19

  1. All operating businesses will obtain and keep guest/ visitor/passenger/client details plus recent and planned travel information.
  2. Staff contact details will be up-to-date and all work information, for example, shifts and drivers of vehicles, will be meticulously recorded.

Commitment to the protocols

All owners, directors and/or managers of businesses, premises or transport services will sign a pledge to adhere to industry protocols. The Tourism Business Council of South Africa and sector leaders will provide support and guidance to smaller establishments.

Client requirements

All guests, visitors, passengers and clients must complete a declaration, including passengers in hired vehicles or people sharing hotel bedrooms. The industry will develop a standard form and ensure it is compliant with the Protection of Personal Information Act. The completion and acceptance of the form act as acceptance into a facility or vehicle.

Where loyalty cards operate, the medical and travel status of the guest can be linked to the loyalty card, and access may be limited to loyalty card holders only. Casinos, for example, will limit access to only loyalty card holders. This will facilitate reduced numbers and keeping guest records to ensure traceability. Only updates to information and temperature need to be taken on arrival.

While the declaration must be signed on arrival, check-in, boarding or pick-up, businesses may opt to ask some or all of the questions on booking or reservation. Businesses may suggest that high-risk individuals postpone their trip or decline a reservation. Industry operators may develop the form as an app, which customers complete on a device, before or on arrival, with electronic submission on arrival indicating sign-off. The declaration form will include the following:

  • General health, chronic or other conditions and medication;
  • Physical impairments;
  • Symptoms in the previous 30 days;
  • Smoker status and fitness level;
  • COVID-19 history;
  • COVID-19 status disclosure signed-off;
  • Record of trip, which includes a full, current trip itinerary (past and future) for tracing;
  • Recent travel history other the last month;
  • Next-of-kin or a friend’s name and contact details, who is not travelling with you;
  • Nationality;
  • ID or passport number;
  • Travel insurance declaration and proof.

The temperature of all customers will be taken on arrival, boarding, pick-up or check-in. For multiple-day stays, the daily temperature should be recorded, for example, when arriving for breakfast or departing the hotel each day. For all experiences longer than two hours, on rental drop-offs, leaving a facility, disembarking and so on, the temperature should be retaken.

As far as possible any subsequent readings during a stay, and the check-out, drop-off or disembarking, reading should be noted on the same record. All temperatures will be taken with a non-contact thermometer. Guests will receive extensive information and briefings on the COVID-19 protocols. This will include information on:

  • Hand sanitising and hand washing;
  • Footwear sanitising where applicable;
  • Surface sanitising;
  • Physical distancing – spacing and queues;
  • Use of masks – details on the proper use and specifically what is expected when eating and drinking;
  • A brief explanation of procedures if someone has a high temperature or COVID-19 symptoms;
  • Access to medical services and pharmacies;
  • Other details per business and sub-sector, such as room cleaning and linen change frequency; food service options and if restaurant reservations are required; dedicated vehicle seat and vehicle entry or exit procedures (which entrance/exit to use, not to touch doors or seats except one seat and seatbelt).

Customers will be required to wear masks except when in their bedroom, in a small group in a vehicle, while eating or drinking. Acceptable masks are cloth masks, surgical masks and N95 respirators. It is expected that most customers will have their own cloth masks.

All facilities and businesses should have a spare supply of surgical or cloth masks, which can be provided to customers should they not have their own mask(s). If a guest does not have their own masks for a multiple-day stay, then multiple masks should be provided.

Hotels may offer a specialised cloth mask laundry service. This will require small sealable bags in which used masks can be submitted for laundry and then a new sterile bag to return the clean mask.

Sanitising and hygiene practices

Frequent customer and staff hand sanitising and/or hand washing along with frequent proper sanitising of surfaces are the key defense against COVID-19.

Luggage

All luggage should either be sprayed with a disinfection spay after off-loading, or wiped, with a minimum of all handles and corners carefully wiped with surface sanitiser. Staff handling luggage should sanitise or wash hands immediately before and after touching luggage. If the guest handles their own luggage to move it into or out of the vehicle or room, and it is not touched by staff, then wiping or spraying is not required.

Cash handling

Cash handling should be minimised or eliminated. Prepayments, EFTs, credit and debit cards, SnapScan, Zapper, and signing to accounts should be maximised. If a guest or staff member handles cash, hand sanitising should happen immediately afterwards.

Physical Distancing

The space between any persons in public and back of house areas should be a minimum of 1,5 metres at all times with two metres preferred.

Exceptions are when one person, for example, a receptionist or cashier, is wearing a visor, or if there is a Perspex or similar shield between the people concerned. Businesses must maximise the use of online reservations, electronic check-in and check-out, and any types of noncontact processing to reduce the need for proximity of people.

As my column space is limited, and there are many sectors to cover, I will be looking at the other sections in the next issue, hopefully, the travel restrictions will have been lifted somewhat and we can actually make use of the info from these protocols. In the meantime, stay home and stay safe.


Mandy Latimore is a consultant in the disability sector in the fields of travel and access.

email: mandy@noveltravel.co.za

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