2020 March eNewsletter
March 20, 2020
Since I was in touch earlier this month concerning COVID-19 (Coronavirus), we have been heartened by the many emails, cards and telephone calls of support we have received enquiring as to how we are coping. The answer is we are working away to minimise, as far as possible, the disruption to our tour programme, our business, and the inevitable inconvenience to those of you booked on one of our tours and study days. To put it succinctly, we, like you, are in ‘uncharted territory’.
James returned last weekend from tour managing our group in Cuba and is based in London at present while he sorts out his hoped-for return to Italy. Here in Aynho, we have already made adjustments and sadly we have had to reduce Chloe’s and Emma’s working hours. Additionally, on certain days they will also be working from home and so in effect we shall have a virtual office. We plan to have the phones manned daily, Monday to Friday, between 9am and 5pm – but if there is no answer when you call, do leave a message and we will get back to you as soon as possible - please bear with us.
As a tour operator we have to follow both UK Government travel, as well as host nation, advice and guidance, which currently only covers the period until mid April. In the past few days we have written to everyone who is due to depart on a tour up until 31 May, setting out our policy on when and how we will make individual decisions regarding these tours. Whilst it's still too soon to predict what will happen to the tours departing from 1 June onwards, we intend to operate them as planned, though we will continue to monitor the situation and write to you at the appropriate time as to the status of each tour, as and when needed.
As you can imagine, we have already made payments on behalf of those who have booked a tour to cover airfares, hotels and other aspects of the programme where suppliers required pre-payment. We are in negotiation with those suppliers to mitigate the consequent risks and/or losses involved. We also await Government guidance on the Package Travel Regulations designed to help cash flow, expected in the next few days.
Looking forward to next year, we hope to reschedule most of the tours already lost from this year’s programme at more or less the same time next year. We will let you have further details of these plans once known.
Should travel to Europe and beyond be curtailed into this Autumn, but travel within the UK and Ireland becomes safe and possible, we are putting together an alternative UK and IRL tour programme which could be made available at short notice. We realise that many weeks of confinement to homes and local areas may tax ever the most patient, myself included, so we hope to have something tempting to offer you after what will be a testing few months.
In the meantime, I returned almost three weeks ago from another recce tour to Russia, on which Stephen joined me for some of the time. The picture above is of Stephen in ‘pause mode’ outside one of the remarkable churches we visited. Part of our time was spent exploring towns and cities east of Moscow, to include many of those included in the ‘Golden Ring’. Our plan is to feature a tour on this theme in 2022 so we shall keep you posted.
One of the unexpected consequences of all this extra time here in Aynho will be that our garden will receive far more attention from me than it has had for many years. From the picture posted at the top of this email, you will see that it is about to burst into life with many more wonderful things to follow on into the year.
Rest assured we have no intention of letting this present situation defeat us and while we may all be left in ‘limbo’ for the next few months, we cannot wait to resume normal service and look forward to welcoming you once again on one of our study days and tours.
Please call us if you have any queries arising from my email.
All best wishes from ‘Team CICERONI’!