TravelMaven recognizes it’s very difficult to make long-term commitments regarding travel these days. That’s why we’ve adjusted our payment and cancellation policies to allow clients maximum flexibility and the ability to avoid financial risk right up until the last possible moment.
In addition to financial risks before departure, travellers will also have to deal with new public health risks and protocols while travelling. Prior to each tour, Barry will brief guests on what they might expect during the flight and at the destination, and provide PPE and whatever other materials may be desirable at that destination.
One thing that has become increasingly clear in the past fews months is that even when life returns to normal, it will be a new normal - especially when it comes to travel.
Remember the first time you had to remove your shoes and empty your pockets?
In the same way that 9/11 changed the way airports do security, COVID-19 will forever change the way airports and airlines deal with the flying public. In fact, it’s likely the whole air travel experience is going to look and feel very different. New technology will be part of this, but that won’t be all. I think many things are going to change - and some will actually improve the experience.
Beyond flying, I expect there will also be new health safety protocols in hotels, restaurants and many other public facilities. At first, this will all seem a little surreal, but as time goes by I’m sure we will adjust to this new normal.
Since TravelMaven was founded in 2018, we have focused on amazing experiences and affordable prices. Now, we will add a third element to our vision statement - reducing the risk.
As you know, everything we do when travelling involves some risk, whether it’s flying on a plane, skiing down a mountain, or eating in a roadside restaurant. Ironically, one of the riskiest parts of any overseas journey is the drive to the airport! We don’t often think about it, but that’s because the risk of driving a car in Ontario is something to which we have become accustomed.
Years ago when Ursula and I lived in downtown Toronto and our friends from Haliburton would visit, they were nervous about walking the streets at night because they feared getting mugged. At the same time, when friends from Toronto visited Haliburton, they were afraid to walk in the woods at night for fear of getting eaten by a bear! In both cases, our friends were comfortable with familiar risks, but feared things beyond their regular experience.
As travel resumes in the coming months, we will all be very aware of the changes we see in airports and hotels. For example, we will hesitate to shake hands, or give an old friend a hug. Unfortunately, that’s the way it’s going to be for the foreseeable future. The choice that each of us will make is whether to stay at home, or continue to go out into the world.
In terms of our TravelMaven tours, we know it’s impossible to eliminate all the risks associated with travel. This has always been true. But we also know that good planning and responsible practices can greatly reduce those risks. That’s why, starting now, TravelMaven will make ‘reducing the risk' an integral part of our customer service mantra.
TravelMaven recognizes there is much uncertainty in the world today, and the possibility that travel plans may have to be cancelled is much greater now than in recent years. As such, it is clearly advantageous for both travellers and tour operators to be able to make travel decisions and commitments as late as possible.
After considering the restrictions of tour planning, and reviewing our booking, payment and cancellation policies, we have determined that “as late as possible” for TravelMaven is 45 days prior to departure. To this end, we have rewritten our policies and deadlines to make this very tight timeline possible for us and our clients. One unavoidable consequence of this“as late as possible” process is that we will have to confirm price and availability for clients once we are 45 days or less prior to departure.
Back in the good old days, large tour companies were better able than small operators to negotiate volume discounts with airlines, hotels, restaurants, and attractions. The fact that these rates were negotiated years in advance and required partial payment months in advance was easily managed and cash flowed by these big firms. Not any more.
Somebody once said that Wayne Gretzky’s advantage was that his “moment of decision” - the instant when he had to decide whether to shoot or pass - was later than everyone else’s. As a result, his decisions were better than their's. That makes sense to me.
At this time, it’s equally clear that TravelMaven has a later “moment of decision” than its larger competitors. In fact, our ability to zig & zag to take advantage of opportunities or avoid problems has become a major advantage in our current travel planning environment. Going forward, we plan to capitalize on this advantage, and pass the benefits and flexibility along to our clients.
TravelMaven sells tours that do not include flights. In the industry, these are called Land Packages.
This is the time, more than 45 days prior to departure, when clients can book a spot on a tour at the posted rate by making a $250 fully refundable deposit.
This is the first key threshold date, 45 days prior to the Start of the Tour, when full payment is due and the cancellation policy changes from 100% to 50%. Up until this point, clients incur zero financial risk. At this point, TravelMaven also determines if it is safe and responsible to operate the tour.
This is the 45 day period between Booking Day and the Start of the Tour. During this time, TravelMaven starts to make specific plans based on group size and spending commitments in the names of individual travellers. While this is rather late for group tour planning, it’s what allows us to require no financial commitment from clients until 45 days prior to departure. This also means anyone wanting to register late will have to await TravelMaven confirming space and pricing.
This is the second key threshold date. The Start of the Tour is determined by check-in at the first hotel. For example, our South Korea tour departs Toronto on October 17 and arrives in Seoul on October 18. As such, the Start of the Tour is October 18. This distinction is important (and the later the better for the traveller) as insurance policies may use this date to determine eligibility for coverage.
TravelMaven is a small company with limited overhead. Barry also conceives, plans and serves as Tour Concierge on all tours, which gives us a consistency and predictability larger companies cannot match. Clients who check the tour market know that our Land Package prices are very reasonable. When one considers that our Small Group tours are maximum 12 guests, this add up to excellent value for clients.
In order to book a tour, a client must make a $250 fully refundable deposit. This brings the client two benefits. First, it guarantees one of 12 spots on the tour. Second, it guarantees the lowest possible price. In this way, TravelMaven’s deposit policy primarily benefits the client, not the service provider.
Land Package rates are posted on our website, and are subject to change. When a $250 deposit is made, the client is guaranteed the rate that day. If the rate subsequently increases, the client is guaranteed their original rate. However, if the rate drops, every client will get the new lower rate. This is TravelMaven’s Lowest Rate Guarantee - the client can’t lose.
Unlike most tour companies that require full payment 120, 90 or 60 days prior to departure, TravelMaven’s new booking process allows us to delay final payment until 45 days prior to the Start of the Tour. This means that clients will have zero financial risk until 45 day prior to the tour.
Most people who book a tour want to go on that tour. We realize this, and that cancellation is rarely anyone’s first choice. To this end, TravelMaven has instituted new and generous cancellation policies that give clients maximum flexibility if something unexpected happens shortly before departure. Compare TravelMaven to others, and you will see that we stack up well and have you covered.
TravelMaven has a generous and straightforward cancellation policy for clients. For cancellations more than 45 days prior to the Start of the Tour, the client gets a 100% refund. For cancellations 45 days or less prior to the Start of the Tour, refunds are 50%. Once a tour begins, there are no refunds.
On rare occasions, TravelMaven may be compelled to cancel a tour. Whatever the reason or timing of such a cancellation, all clients are refunded 100% of all monies paid to TravelMaven.
For a fee equal to 10% of their Land Package price, clients can also extend their right to a 100% refund until the Start of the Tour. This means if you can’t get on the plane in Toronto for any reason, you don’t have to pay for your tour. By taking TravelMaven’s in-house insurance policy, clients avoid having to meet eligibility requirements and/or chase third party insurance companies for refunds. Please note, this coverage does not include the cost of flights, trip interruption, emergency repatriation or other costs.