Dear Ultimate Africa Clients,
As the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to unfold we are working diligently to stay updated in this changing environment, and to be sensitive to the needs of all our guests, our staff, and the many safari camps and lodges that support / finance the rural communities and wildlife of Africa.
If you are concerned about your travel plans, please call us at 1 800 461 0682. We are working with each traveler on a case-by-case basis and are here to help you make well-informed decisions.
As of mid to late May 2020 Covid lockdowns in Africa are ending (see chart below) and many areas are reopening. As of May 17, 2020 Tanzania opened to all tourists with no quarantines for travelers. With a population of 55 million Tanzania has recorded only 509 Coronavirus cases and 21 deaths. Uganda is opening their airport on June 9 and gorilla trekking 21 days later. Victoria Falls on the Zambian side is reopening, Namibia’s national parks have reopened following their April closure, and Botswana has entered phase 3 of opening and its parks opened May 15. Game reserves and museums are also open.
Despite the above our focus remains re-accommodating our clients with trips starting within the next 60 days – mid to late July 2020. Most safari camps and lodges are allowing our guests to defer trip arrangements to a new start date within 12 to 18 months of the original start date. The general stipulations are that you need to rebook the same trip, with the same number of guests, for the same time of year. Based on the generosity of our suppliers in Africa, which stems from our long relationships, 2020 rates are being honored for 2021 travel on the vast majority of trips. A small number of safari operators are suggesting minor increases for 2021 – as an example one company in East Africa has noted trips postponed until 2021 will face a 2% increase in costs.
We are working closely with our safari partners to offer flexible payment terms. In general we are requesting that clients be allowed to delay their final payment until 45 days before travel and only be liable for the deposit if trip arrangements are postponed at that time. With each safari being customized and unique, we will do this in date order on a case-by-case basis and appreciate your patience.
As far as I know, only a handful of suppliers anywhere in the world are offering to refund monies. Please keep in mind, we work on contracted rates with hotels, so online terms and conditions / penalties are not the same for us. Many hotels have changed their online terms and conditions in the past few weeks to attract customers, so they are irrelevant.
Most travel insurers are allowing travelers to change dates without having to purchase a new policy. Most are not covering for cancellation due to fear of the Coronavirus or government restrictions.
We are evaluating the situation with each client’s airfares on a case-by-case basis. Generally speaking, airlines are providing either credits or refunds for flights they have cancelled. They are not allowing refunds of nonrefundable tickets and are not waiving cancellation penalties for clients cancelling flights. Some airlines are waiving change fees for planned trips through the summer of 2020, but clients are often responsible for fare differential. New allowed travel dates, with some airlines, have been pushed to 2021 and 2022. To stimulate sales, many airlines are waiving change fees for newly purchased tickets regardless of future travel dates.
Flying is probably the biggest concern for travelers and we are getting an indication of how this may look from Emirates. As of mid May 2020 they are doing 10 minute Covid tests at boarding, travelers are wearing masks in line, there are no in flight magazines, and carry on luggage has been limited to a small handbag or briefcase. Alaska Airlines are blocking off all middle seats on large aircraft and aisle seats on smaller aircraft. Delta is fogging all aircraft overnight and sanitizing high-touch areas like tray tables, entertainment screens, armrests and seat-back pockets before boarding. They are also blocking middle seats, pausing automatic upgrades, modifying the boarding process, and moving to essential meal service only.
We thank you for choosing Ultimate Africa Safaris to plan your African safari. Over 24 years we have weathered many storms. We remain committed to providing our clients with the best service possible in planning your incredible African adventure and ensuring Africa’s wildlife and wilderness areas thrive!
Ultimate Africa President
“I first visited Africa in the late 1980s. I came face to face with a wild elephant, and fell in love with being on safari! I made it my goal to create an African travel company that was all about authentic wildlife experiences. Many years later we are one of the top African travel companies in the Americas – known for arranging custom safaris to East and Southern Africa; personal trips, no cookie cutter stuff.”