COVID-19 Impacts on our 2020 season

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Final Decision on Our 2020 Season – and 2021 is already 50% fully booked!

PUBLISHED 05/06/20

Our heartfelt thanks once again to all of you for the incredible levels of support, belief and kindness which everyone has given us over the past few weeks as we do our best to navigate through the ongoing impact of Covid-19 upon our industry. I am not exaggerating when I say that I have been personally moved to tears many times by the kind words which we have received from so many of our guests. This has undoubtedly been the strangest, hardest period of my life in so many ways, and to receive such warmth and generosity from so many people, under so much pressure, has made a huge difference to not just the stability of Singletrack Safari, but also to my personal ability to cope through such tough times.

  • Facing the Inevitable in 2020

Over the past few weeks we have reached out to every one of our guests individually regarding the probability of guests being able to reach Andorra as this summer progresses – and indeed, the practicalities of us operating holidays this year. We have waited until all 200 people who were booked prior to Coronavirus had responded before making this statement today.

We have now reached a point, unthinkable 3 months ago, where as a result of our advice and support every one of our guests for the entire summer season have now chosen to defer their trips to 2021.

This very sadly means that we will not be operating in Andorra in 2020.

This situation is a gut-punch for all of our guests, and all of us in your Singletrack Safari team, to say the very least. However, as we are not having a season in 2020 this means that our 10th birthday is now deferred too – so 2021 will be a celebration of our big anniversary instead!

Many of our groups are also taking the opportunity to add more people to their bookings, whilst others have switched from short breaks to full weeks – and during last week we have sent official Deferral Invoices to every single group.

2020 was intended to be a celebration year – it is our 10th anniversary – and instead we have found ourselves simply fighting to find the best way forwards as a small company…and watching all of the work, effort and building blocks placed over the last decade crumble in just a few short weeks. We are in a very stable position to survive this as a company – but this year has left me and my small seasonal staff team having to face some really emotional challenges – and you guys have all given us the support and enthusiasm to stay positive – so once again, thank you.

Of over 200 bookings for this year (which we had before the virus hit) we have now deferred every booking for June, July, August and September to 2021, which we offered to do free of charge.

In fact, only a total of twelve people have actually opted to cancel – and we have even had a few cancellations who refused to take a rebate from us to help us through these times. Honestly, the kind support which our guests have shown has made it certain that we will continue to operate in 2021 – we will not make any money at all in 2020, but 2021 is already shaping up to be our best year ever. In other words, your support and understanding is helping our little company stay afloat in the current storm.

  • How do we view the present situation regarding travel?

• The UK government reinstated last Thursday that a 14-day quarantine period will be in effect for all travellers returning from overseas once travel begins. Nobody actually knows when travel will actually begin – but we have to say that what they have been the industry is planning is preposterous: they intend to fly with no social distancing.

Most airlines are continuing to cancel international flights and are not confirming any dates to recommence travel.

Barcelona remains closed to travel due to the region being extremely badly affected by COVID-19. At the time of writing if you could fly to Barcelona (which you cannot from most places) you would not be allowed to leave the region–this means it will be some time before any flights can even be scheduled.

Andorran borders are shut, hotels are still closed, Vallnord is yet to open, and national restrictions are still stringent, despite having started a number of weeks before the UK.

Nearly all countries are yet to decide when to allow their residents to begin traveling internationally – and TO WHICH countries they will be allowed to travel. Also, the other aspect of this is the question of which countries each nation will allow travel INBOUND FROM. Opening travel and borders is not a simple process – as no-one wants to create further spikes in infection rates. Governments will be highly cautious – and setting out this framework will take time and may be subject to sudden change as soon as infection rates show any signs of rising.

Spain have stated last Wednesday that any travellers coming into the country from the UK (as the vast majority of our guests have to do in order to reach Andorra) are not likely to be welcome once travel begins, due to the level of infection rates, and lacklustre lockdown routes taken by the government in Britain.

• From this week French residents who live within 100km will be allowed to travel into Andorra – the Spanish border remains closed because the infection levels in Catalunya are too high. When the new rules begin Andorrans will be allowed to drive 100km into France, but no further.

• As a result of the huge drop in expected tourism this summer many hotels in Andorra are now possibly not opening at all this summer. We hear from our local contacts that several major hotels in La Massana will probably not open until the winter ski season.

The majority of our guests travel from the UK, but restrictions such as Spanish travel bans from Barcelona apply for ALL nationalities, so all of our guests are affected. Various governments around Europe are at different stages and have other approaches to COVID-19 – but easy international tourist travel still seems to be a only a remote possibility this summer for all of us.

In reality, we believe there is virtually no chance of international tourist travel returning to normal in 2020.

We feel that international travel for the rest of this year is extremely likely to continue to be highly affected by the pandemic – and aspects such as quarantine periods will render holidays almost impossible for most people, as you will have to quarantine for 2 when you get home – a 3 week commitment for a 1 week holiday simply is not workable for most people.

Based on the evidence, in reality we feel that all the signs suggest that COVID-19 will heavily affect travel for the remainder of this year.

The economic impact of this decision upon Singletrack Safari is obviously very significant and negative, but we wanted to continue to give the best, most honest advice we possibly could. We would rather have little or no income this year than provide bad information to the people we value the most.

We have never faced anything like this, but the future looks incredibly positive – we are already 50% booked up for next year (we normally would have no bookings at all!) so we will be fully booked in 2021. We have discussed the situation at length with our guiding team, and all of the guys are wanting to work with us next year too – which is fantastic news, as we have an incredible team lined up!

So, on behalf of Jon, Emily, James, Sarah and myself, our thanks once again – and we cannot wait to get riding with you next year in Andorra – we are going to miss it so badly, but the future is bright.

Best wishes,
Martin

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED 15/04/20
New Information, and Our Thoughts

Once again I need to start this update by offering further thanks to all of our guests, supporters and followers for the unbelievable support, kindness and understanding which everyone, universally has been offering to us as we all work together to get through these challenging times. I really hope that we can all come riding out of the other side of these events together, and stronger than ever – it has been incredible seeing how our community has rallied together, despite our separation from one another.

Andorra MTB World Cup Officially Cancelled

Sadly, yesterday Vallnord released a statement to announce the cancellation of the 2019 MTB World Cup round in Andorra. Whilst to be very much expected, it is still unfortunate news, as it signals that Andorra does not expect travel restrictions to be changed in the near future. The statement reads as follows: “We are sorry to inform that the UCI MTB World Cup has been cancelled. The current situation caused by Covid-19 affects us all and we must continue to fight to stop this disease. The celebration of this event could pose a health and safety risk to all the participants. It has been a very difficult decision but we are working to postpone the event for the calendar for 2021. As always, we want to thank the support of everyone who makes it possible, as well as the runners, collaborators, sponsors and teams.”

Our feelings on the current situation, and looking forward

At the moment the problem is that no-one really knows anything in terms of genuine, factual information –  as a business owner within the travel industry I am trying to remain positive and look forward, but the lack of real information makes any definite answers almost impossible to give. We have received all sorts of questions from guests over the past few weeks as you can imagine – but we remain at the mercy of the situation just as much as any other business. We continue to do our absolute best to be helpful, flexible, friendly and supportive in unprecedented times – we want you, our guests, to know we will do everything we can to help make things easier not more difficult!

All we can do at this stage is make educated guesses based on what is being seen elsewhere, particularly in countries who are starting to come out of the other side of the epidemic, but even that is a very inexact science, as nations such as China have done way, way more than the UK, Spanish and French governments have in terms of testing, tracking of movements and monitoring the virus than most Western nations. The Chinese, for example, have done huge amounts of work tracking cross-contamination through movement tracing of individuals based on mobile phone cellular data information. This has led to Wuhan having apparently reopened with a degree of normality now, but even so, the last update I read was that residents are not allowed to leave the city, and no inbound non-national travel is being permitted, of course…

Andorra news reports suggest that around 30 people have died there – which in a population of only 77,000 people is hugely impactful – so my assumption is that the government will continue to be very strict, I suspect. Andorra has been on lockdown for nearly a month already, and nearly all offices are closed, so we are getting very little info back from our organisational contacts at the moment. However, the Vallnord press release suggests that the Park themselves made the call on the event cancellation…again, supporting the theory that there is currently no specific date in mind for the reopening of borders.

Meanwhile, as you may well have seen, this week the government in France have announced that their national lockdown will extend to mid-May at the earliest. Andorra is obviously heavily influenced by that decision, as they still have governmental links despite their independence. This suggests to me that it is highly unlikely the borders will open by June, although, to reiterate, this is purely speculation, and no official information is available. As a result of the offers and support structure which we have provided (see previous update) almost all guests for June and July have now deferred their bookings to later dates; many opted to delay to August and September, plus quite a number of people have decided to hold their bookings for 2021 and we have therefore transferred their deposits across to next year. If you are undecided, or want to reconsider your options just drop us a line and we will do everything possible to ensure you don’t miss out!

Meanwhile, in neighbouring Spain, to the South of Andorra, the government are making what seem to be somewhat unrealistically optimistic noises about returning to normal – especially considering that they have a death toll that is one of the highest anywhere. They have seen a downturn in recent deaths and new infections, but despite this it is hard to visualise the relaxing of Spanish travel rules at any time in the near future, and the international reaction to their idea of ending their lockdown seems to have been met with general derision by other governments.

Internationally, once things do begin to turn the corner with each country’s own internal restrictions, this does not necessarily mean that external inter-country travel rules will change either – as it seems logical that either every nation’s government will gradually need to approve which countries (or maybe even regions) their residents will be able to visit…and beyond that, bear in mind that logically, those countries will ALSO need to decide from which nations they will allow incoming travel as well.

Effectively it is all pure guesswork and speculation right now – but I can’t envisage lockdowns (particularly the UK) being eased this month, and probably not next month either…and then the travel system will be slow to recover too, for the reasons discussed above. I can’t realistically see much likelihood of any international tourist travel being permitted before July personally. I am also guessing that this is the reason why the World Cup has been cancelled: they are assuming it is unlikely that people will be able to travel to it.

Just like everyone else, we keep waiting for a bit more information to become available, but nothing is significant has been forthcoming…although I have a feeling we may know a bit more by the end of this week, as the momentum for further clarification is building in the press and social media…so we will just have to keep waiting for now.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED 27/03/20

Our MOST IMPORTANT Coronavirus Update

Before we get into more detail, I want to give my most heartfelt thanks to all of our amazing guests – so many of you have got in touch with kind words of support and encouragement as the unprecedented impact of Coronavirus continues to sweep the globe. You guys are the reason I launched Singletrack Safari a decade ago, and your belief in us and your positivity has staggered me – thanks so, so much to every single person who is helping us stay strong each and every day.

For our very small team here at Singletrack Safari the current situation is crushingly upsetting, and creates huge amounts of uncertainty in our lives as a guiding team – so reading your supportive words, messages and emails is genuinely helping keep a smile on our faces in these really tough times.

We are deeply thankful to you all that not a single person booked for a trip this summer has contacted us with anything other than positive wishes and messages. No-one has cancelled, no-one has complained, and everyone has been so staggeringly understanding of what an incredibly difficult situation this has placed our company in.

Therefore, as you will see, we are going to make some options available to you in order to support you, our guests. Life is currently very tough, without the added stress of losing your holiday – so anything we can do to help you a bit seems the least we can do. We are all in this together, so we want to show how much we truly appreciate that you have chosen to book or enquire with us.

Singletrack Safari genuinely is a very small, rider-owned company – in fact, away from the riding season we operate as a sole-trader, self-employed business. We may have a great presence online, but we are a tiny company in reality! During the season we have our team of guides on board too – but the stresses which the outbreak has placed upon all our team members as we approach a summer of uncertainty is absolutely immense. As you can probably imagine we are very worried about our ability to simply put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads right now. As I have said before, we will survive, but the short-term future could be very tough for us, in all honesty. Fortunately, it is the small nature of our company that means we should be able to survive this storm, as we have very small fixed overheads in comparison to large holiday companies.

As a self-employed business owner, I am having to be incredibly cautious with what steps and decisions we make as we move towards a very uncertain summer. Simply put, without Singletrack Safari I have no income – and, having spent the last 10 years of my life building this business into one of the best-loved MTB holiday companies in Europe, I am determined that we will survive these challenges, and continue to ride epic, dusty trails with you all for many years into the future.

I like to think that we have a very strong code of ethics as a company, which we always try to reflect at every stage of your booking; from the very first enquiry to the last day of riding we work incredibly hard to give you the best, most professional and supportive service in the MTB holiday industry. And we want to continue to do so as we all fight to overcome this unprecedented global event.

Governments across the planet are continually increasing the measures which we must all take in order to control the spread of the virus, to reduce the impact on healthcare systems and to pave a way for a return to normality at a point sooner rather than later in the future. However, we all continue to play a guessing game as to how quickly the tide will begin to turn. There are some indications of steps back towards pre-viral outbreak life in China and other early-infected regions – these will no doubt pave the way for global planning as this experimentation progresses. However here in Europe we are still very much experiencing the worst of the turmoil, disruption and complication of our day-to-day lives.

This week the UK government followed the lead of much of mainland Europe, and enforced a full lockdown on day-to-day life, with a few concessions to allow citizens to get essential supplies and basic exercise. It cannot be long before other countries whose infection rates still continue to wildly escalate impose even more stringent rules.

We recognise that we are fortunate enough to ride with guests from all over the planet every year – and whilst many of our guests are from the UK, we also have a large percentage of bookings from all over the World. Whilst Europe is heading into the next phases of controlling the pandemic, other countries and regions are at different stages. As a result, we now need to take an adaptive approach so that we ensure our guests have some options in order to make tough decisions on the summer ahead.

As I have said from the outset, it remains my great hope that you will be able to travel to us in Andorra for the holiday which you have booked – but it now seems very probable that even if some countries lift travel limitations before your trip dates, others may be at other stages of outbreak control. Basically, none of us know what the next few weeks and months hold.

As a result, we are taking the following steps, effective immediately:

  • Option 1- you can now defer your trip to an alternative week free of charge. You can amend to any available week later in 2020, or 2021. Normally we are not able to defer trips across different years – but these are exceptional circumstances, so we are going to make this possible in order to allow you to put your holiday on hold until these difficult times are behind us.
    – If you want you want to defer to later in 2020, we need to know this by April 10th If your chosen new 2020 date also looks to be affected, you will still be able to defer to 2021 later.
    – If you want to defer to 2021, we need you to let us know by April 10th, but you do not need to confirm the exact date at this stage
  • Option 2 – If you want to entirely cancel your booking, we are going to change our deposit refund rules. Instead of forfeiting your entire deposit we will offer you a 50% refund of the amount paid.
    This means that most people will lose only £35 by cancelling, or far less in many cases. This is to show our determination to help reduce your financial difficulties in these challenging times, and we also will issue official cancellation invoices to help support you with any claim on your insurance for other losses. At this stage all guests have paid only a 20% deposit – as balances are payable 6 weeks before your due arrival date. Therefore, if you decide to cancel and take advantage of this offer, we need you to do so by April 17th at the very latest.
  • If you want to defer your trip to a new date, or take the cancellation offer, we need to know by the deadlines above. We will issue an official amendment invoice & booking agreement for you to sign. Amendments will be made on a first come, first-served basis –please remember that availability is also affected by existing bookings, which we have to honour, of course. In other words, please tell us EXTREMELY urgently – ideally immediately – if you would like to defer your trip to a new date, as this is absolutely crucial for planning and booking purposes.
  • We will not charge our normal £75 booking amendment fee to swap to an alternative week. This fee will be waived for all amendments to bookings to make your decision easier.
  • We are going to freeze the price of your booking if you defer to later in 2020. Therefore, if there is a price difference between the week you have booked and the one you wish to defer to, we will not make any additional charges. We want to show our appreciation for your support, so we are going to freeze the price of your booking to protect you, so we all know where we stand clearly.
  • We are also going to protect/freeze your price if you choose you defer to 2021. If our costs do not increase, we guarantee will not make any additional charges to you. Furthermore, if our suppliers are forced to increase their prices next year as result of the global situation, we will guarantee that your booking price will not rise unless absolutely necessary, & any increase is capped at a 10% maximum.
  • All of these options and steps also apply to new bookings too – so if you are tempted to book, but you are unsure what the future holds, you can do so safely knowing that you have flexibility in an ever-changing situation.

As I am sure you can see, we are working incredibly hard to relieve some of the pressure of this situation for our guests, and we are also trying to make sure that no-one loses out unnecessarily, whilst also making sure Singletrack Safari can continue to run amazing trips in the future!

 

WHAT TO DO NOW – ALL bookings require an urgent response please.

  • Decide if you want to defer or cancel your booking, or take no action
  • Let us know immediately what you have decided
  • If you want to defer to summer 2021 please confirm by 10/04/20. We do not need to know a specific date at this stage, unless you have one in mind.
  • If you want to defer to later in 2020 please confirm by 10/04/20 & we will discuss your new date. If later this year new dates also look to be affected, you can still defer to 2021.
  • If you decide to cancel entirely, please contact us by 17/04/20 and we will prepare an official cancellation invoice and arrange the 50% refund of your deposit.
  • If you choose to defer, we will immediately issue new booking and amendment paperwork


Once again, I really want to let every one of our guests know how much we appreciate your support in these times – and we want to continue to show you that we will look after you throughout this crisis however we possibly can
. Hopefully these options will give you some hope for the future, release a few worries from your day-to-day life at the moment, and support you in staying safe and healthy. Many airlines are now offering free or cheap ways of amending flight bookings too – so you can now easily ensure you have a great trip in your future, whilst removing doubt, worry and reducing your risks. For sure this will be the most challenging year in the history of Singletrack Safari – we want to express our deep gratitude that you guys are helping us survive it safely too.

Stay calm, stay positive and remember that our amazing mountains and trails will still be there once we have all got through this. You don’t need to miss out, but we will all need to work together, make some sacrifices, be understanding, and continue to fight until we put these challenging times behind us and can get back to sharing our love and passion for riding our bikes together again.

Above all, please keep healthy and happy – those trails are going to feel all the more well-earned once this is all over!

Once again, my heartfelt thanks,

Martin

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED 17/03/20
We now intend to update this page of our website on a regular basis with the latest updates on our position – it will be kept updated as we learn more, or as the situation evolves

As you can probably imagine things are very confusing, concerning and ever-changing for all of us at the moment. We are constantly monitoring the news and governmental positions both at home and abroad – but, as the news events of the past few days have shown us, things can change hugely and suddenly.

We are trying very hard to remain calm and positive – as this pandemic clearly has enormous and possibly catastrophic implications for the entire travel industry. We are in the fortunate position of actually being a very small company (during the off-season we are just two people, one of whom is part-time!) so we don’t have huge overheads to maintain at the moment, and are therefore not at immediate financial risk, unlike many large travel companies. Even if we have an incredibly tough year we will continue with Singletrack Safari beyond 2020 and into the future –  but the Covid 19 situation could have a huge impact on all of us around the world.

Today (17/03/20) the UK Foreign Office has finally made some solid decisions, and provided an official position on international travel; one that should allow people to claim on travel insurance if they are likely to lose out https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-51615412 However, as it stands, this is only really going to be recognised as relevant to the next few weeks, as the situation will no doubt change. Currently all non-essential travel is not advised – they will review this position again shortly though, no doubt. Please remember that travel insurance policies are dependant upon these sorts of statements, so it is worth remaining aware of what your travel insurance policy covers. However, it seems that most policies will cover any trips booked prior to last week, when Coronavirus was first categorised as a “known event”. There is a lot of inaccurate information circulating around the topic of travel insurance at the moment – please check the facts with your own policy provider. Although we fully intend to operate staying aware of the essentials of your travel policy cover is clearly very sensible at the moment.

Currently the Andorran, French and Spanish borders are temporarily closed for all but essential travel – again, this is being described as a temporary measure. We will continue to monitor the situation and update this page.

As it stands we are continuing to work towards our season happening as planned – but the problem is that it’s impossible to know what is happening next week, and even less so regarding a specific point in several months’ time. As a company we cannot afford to *not* operate – so we are not cancelling any trips, but we have only the same information as everyone else about precisely what the future holds. We have to hope that the current non-travel measures are short-term, and can be safely reversed shortly so that borders reopen, and tourism will once again be will be allowed – letting people travel to Andorra as normal once the season starts in early June. So long as you can get there we have every intention of being ready and waiting to meet you!

Remember that there genuinely is positive news out there  – but it is not being reported very clearly amongst the mass panic being caused by our UK news and media. For example, the number of new cases being reported in China is now reportedly declining, and therefore appears to have peaked – so there is still plenty of cause for hope. If you are feeling worried about Coronavirus you might find this article interesting https://theconversation.com/coronavirus-ten-reasons-why-you-ought-not-to-panic-132941

We are just as desperate as everyone else is to know what the future holds – but all we can really do is remain positive, and continue as normal as best we can. Although this is now going to be an exceptionally tough year for our business Singletrack Safari will make it out of the other side, I am absolutely certain.  Please stay healthy, stay positive yet mindful, and hopefully we will start to progress back towards normality before the season is due to begin.

Martin, Director

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED 11/03/20
Here is why there’s no reason to let Coronavirus worry you when booking with Singletrack Safari…and why you won’t lose out if you were forced to cancel.
 
We have been asked a few questions about our policy on Coronavirus, and whether we plan to let this affect our trips in Andorra….the short answer is a resounding NO!
 
We are all ready for the season ahead; we have our new guiding team in place, we have a lot of bookings and have no reason to expect any issues with running our trips.
 
But what happens should you have to cancel? Here is a quick explanation to reassure you that in reality you can book a trip with us without any real cause for concern.
 
Our policy is very straightforward – and is also very clearly outlined in great detail in our Terms and Conditions, which you receive in your booking pack. We have always provided a full, written set of Terms, as very few MTB holiday actually bother – which we think is unprofessional – but here at StS we have always preferred to do things the right way!
 
Simply put, our policies are absolutely in line with all other high quality, legitimate holiday operators – so if WE cancel you get a full refund.
 
As with any holiday company we have also always strongly recommended that you have personal travel insurance in place, in case of a cancellation from your side. This is not specifically due to the current situation, as it should equally cover you if you had to cancel for most other reasons – every year we have one or two guests who unfortunately have to cancel, due to injury, sickness, changes in work, family problems etc.
 
We insist that you have accident insurance as a bare minimum for our trips, but most good policies cover you for cancellation and curtailment too. Please check with your insurance provider/ policy for the full details – but no decent travel insurance policy should leave you without cover if you were unable to travel for any reason. Our Terms and Conditions also explain our sliding scale of rebates – these are based on how close to arrival date your cancellation occurs. Your Travel Insurance may request an official cancellation invoice – which we are happy to provide too.
 
We have no plans to cancel any trips – as of 11/03/20 Andorra still only has ONE case – and we are still getting a good, steady flow of bookings coming in, so most people seem to be taking things very sensibly.
 
We will, of course, make some reasonable allowances to ensure your health – but in all seriousness there’s no reason for us to expect that the situation will prevent anything from happening as usual. Andorra is a tourism-driven economy, and we, like all businesses in the field have to proceed as normal without panicking or over-reacting unnecessarily.
 
If you have any further questions please don’t hesitate to talk to us – but we are very much looking forward to introducing you to our sunny, dusty, hot trails this summer!

"what a fantastic trip we had to Andorra and everything was organised to perfection...spot on."

Beth Williams

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