An interview with our local partners in Panama
9th August 2021
Back in February - which feels like a very long time ago - we didn’t have much need for the words “pandemic” or “lockdown”. The Chief Medical Officer was not someone that we could recognise, or describe. The idea of a nation clapping its health service (and many others) in the streets would have seemed a little eccentric. But here we are only four months later and these things seem normal.
To any of you who have lost friends or family during the pandemic, our sincere condolences. There are few of us untouched by it, and the effects of it have been heartbreaking to watch.
The pandemic is a reminder of why travel truly matters, especially when it is done in partnership with local people. Livelihoods and friendships are built on the back of it. Endangered wildlife is conserved because of it. Insights and understanding are carried back home (by both parties) after it. In many developing countries tourism is the economy. It puts food on tables, kids into schools, and doctors into hospitals, and is one of the biggest employers worldwide. It has helped to raise standards of living - particularly of the poor - in every country on Earth.
A manager at our local partner in Cambodia was born during a civil war, that came after a genocide. He had almost no education at all, only his determination, an admirable work ethic, and the shirt on his back. He got his first job on a building site, then a lucky break into tourism, his career taking off thereafter. He’s called Heng (pictured) - if you’ve travelled to Cambodia with TravelLocal then it was most likely Heng that designed your trip. The pandemic has halted that hopeful story - all of it made possible by our wish to see his country. When that wish can once more be fulfilled, Heng’s story will resume.
With that in mind, and given the uncertainty that the pandemic has brought in its wake, we want to give you some peace of mind about planning and booking travel for 2021 and beyond - over and above the ABTA and ATOL financial security we have always provided.
For any new bookings made before the 31st August 2020, all deposits (usually non-refundable) will become refundable until 60 days before your departure (when balance payments usually come due). All our local partners are being as flexible as they can - they know how important this is to you all.
For more details, see this summary.
Booking now helps Heng, and many others like him, get back on his feet. But it also secures your holiday arrangements well before “the crush” - the moment when the whole world wants to travel again, and availability evaporates. We can see signs of that starting now.
As many of you will know from the news headlines, Covid-19 presented a unique challenge to the travel industry. When international airspace started to close - and we had many customers abroad - it felt like being inside a tightening noose.
We made a decision early on that at all times we would ensure a real person was on the end of the phone or email, no matter what, and that we wouldn’t stop until all our clients were safely at home. That workload, alongside our amazing local experts, was significant - sometimes through the night - but happily all TravelLocal clients did indeed get home safely. We received many messages of support from customers, and many of you kindly agreed to postpone trips, both of which we are very grateful for. That support matters enormously to us, and to our local partners around the world. Thank you, from all of us.
"Could not have asked for better support. Being stuck in a foreign country is never a good thing but TravelLocal, and their partner company in Morocco, worked together to ensure we were well taken care of." - P. Davis, USA
We are pleased also to have lived up to our own values - we abided by the UK's package travel regulations at all times, including providing refunds on request. Trust, as we always remind ourselves, takes years to earn, and only a moment to lose.
You can see our public reviews, including some during the pandemic, here.
And so, to the future. We are working hard on expanding our destination list. In our next update we will talk in more detail about the countries we are adding to the TravelLocal network. Currently in the pipeline are: Greece, Italy, Iceland, Portugal, France, Spain, Ireland, the Maldives and Mauritius. If there are countries you would particularly like us to look into do get in touch directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your views are the most valuable of all.
All of our community - you, our customers, our local experts and our team at TravelLocal HQ, went into this together. And we shall emerge from it together too, to see the world once more. Wanderlust seems only to be amplified by lockdown - the will to discover sharpened by isolation. Memories are precious, and travel ones amongst the most precious of all. We look forward to creating more of them together.
Huw & Tom