Dear Ultimate Africa Clients,
As the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to improve 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 late August 2020 Covid lockdowns in Africa are ending 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. Kenya reopened August 1, 2020 with no quarantines. Uganda opened their airport on June 9 and gorilla trekking resumed 21 days later. Rwanda reopened June 17, 2020 with 629 cases and 2 deaths out of a population of 12 million (as a comparison here in Washington State we have had over 1,200 deaths out of a population of 7.8 million). Victoria Falls on the Zambian side is reopening and Ethiopian Airlines has resumed flights into the capital – Lusaka. Namibia’s is scheduled to reopen September 1, 2020. Zimbabwe will open to international visitors October 1, 2020. Botswana has entered phase 3 of opening and its parks opened May 15. Game reserves and museums are also open. South Africa is looking to allow international tourist arrivals very soon however there is some discussion that this may be pushed back to January 1, 2021.
Our focus is now two fold: re-accommodating existing clients who do not wish to travel within the next +/- 60 days and advising clients who wish to book new trips how best to do so.
With regards to postponements 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.
Only a handful of African suppliers 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.
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 were 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. Please note some airlines are not allowing N95 masks with vents – these are for commercial use and allow germs to escape through the vent. Medical N95 masks, which do not have a vent, are allowed.
In Africa we are seeing robust Covid protocols put in place across the tourism industry including safari camp / lodge / vehicle cleaning… we are hugely impressed with what we are hearing / seeing. Looking forward antibody treatments look to be showing great promise and basic drugs such as prednisone are having a huge effect… In the UK the death rate from Covid for those entering hospitals has gone from 6% down to 1.5% due to better understanding of how to treat and also because cases are less severe.
For new bookings, mostly for 2021 and 2022 travel, we are working closely with our safari partners to offer our clients flexible cancellation / payment terms. In general we are requesting refundable deposits and that clients be allowed to delay their final payment until 45 days before travel. With each safari being customized and unique, we are doing this on a case-by-case basis. In addition many airlines are waiving change fees for newly purchased tickets regardless of future travel dates.
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.”