What follows is an update pertaining to 2020 programs and Coronavirus (COVID-19).
While it’s understandable to be anxious about the current state of affairs, we think it vital to put faith in the assessment of experts. In tandem with our partners in the travel industry and in-country teams, we will continue to adhere closely to the guidance of the CDC, US State Department, Smithsonian Institution, and World Health Organization. The CDC has a 3-tier advisory system:
- 1 is practice normal precautions.
- 2 is practice enhanced precautions, particularly if old or sick.
- 3 is avoid all non-essential travel whoever you are.
If your destination reaches a Level 2 warning, the program is subject to programming modifications, postponement, or cancellation, based on specific circumstances at the time in that country. If your destination reaches a Level 3 at or within 90 days of departure, we will cancel the trip and give groups two options: postponing the program to a future date and crediting recoverable tuition forward, or issuing a refund of all recoverable tuition. The use of your air ticket would be subject to airline policies.
We also understand there are a lot of questions around insurance and as much as we would like to help in communication, ultimately insurance providers are the only party authorized to discuss their policies with the people who purchased them. If you purchased an additional plan, either from Allianz or another provider, questions should be directed to those parties. Allianz can be reached at 1-800-284 8300 – Prompt #3 for Customer Service. Please provide them with our Allianz ACCAM: F207001 and they should be able to help you.
We understand these are uncertain times to contemplate international travel so it’s important you know that we will operate with an abundance of caution when deciding whether or not to run a program. The health and safety of Walking Tree travelers and staff has been our top priority for 15 years and will continue to be the filter through which we make these decisions.
For questions, please contact the Walking Tree Representative listed on your private program webpage.
Safety and Preparation
One of the fundamental advantages of traveling with us is the fact that we handle each and every logistical concern from the moment a group departs the United States until their return home at the end of a successful adventure. With destinations that span dozens of countries across the globe, it’s vital that the logistics behind each and every program are handled with the utmost care and attention to detail. We book the international airfare, arrange all lodging, and coordinate all transportation in the destination country with the highest standards in mind, leaving the Group Organizer to focus on maximizing time with students during the program.
The safety and well-being of our travelers is our top priority. We are constantly evaluating the safety and security of our destination countries, from a macro level to a micro level, with respect to our partner host communities. Our in-country staff prepare meticulously for all programs. In country staff also verify the safety records of our partner organizations, vendors, and transportation providers, as well as thoroughly vet homestay families via in-depth interviews and home visits, also keeping up on important current events in the region.
Program Leaders are seasoned travelers who are CPR and First Aid certified, undergo thorough training in crisis management, and participate in our Leadership Summit on an annual basis. We do our best to prepare for any eventuality and have detailed emergency protocols for our leaders, in-country staff, and U.S.-based staff. We also will register our programs and all travelers with the U.S. Department of State Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in case of emergency.
Medical Disclosure and Standards of Behavior
As a part of the enrollment process, participants must complete a medical release form and sign a Standards of Behavior agreement. Information provided on the medical release form is strictly confidential and enables us to best serve and support all of our participants while they are abroad. Our Standards of Behavior are rules which we require all participants and Program Leaders to adhere to, and help us to ensure a fair and safe environment on program.
Smithsonian-Approved Travel with SSA
Part of our collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution involved a comprehensive review to ensure our programming, staffing, and organizational protocol fit the high standards of the Smithsonian Institution. If you are an administrator or educator that would like a more comprehensive review of these policies, please click on our risk management guide below.