Message from Steve Berry, Managing Director - Covid-19
The events of the last two months show us all how precious the lives of our loved ones really are. The viability of corporations, airlines, banks and even whole economies have been ignored as mankind has come together to defeat this invisible threat. It is a heartening thought isn’t it, that individual lives are more important than money?
Watch Steve Berry, Managing Director of Mountain Kingdoms, as he talks about how we reacted to Covid-19 and how positive feedback received from our clients really helped our morale in these extraordinary times.
It is 33 years since my friend, Steve Bell, and I started Himalayan Kingdoms in a two room attic office in Clifton, Bristol; offering trekking and climbing holidays in all parts of the Himalaya. Since those early days the company – now Mountain Kingdoms – has expanded to offering holidays across the world and a year never goes by without something happening somewhere from earthquakes to assassinations; Gulf Wars to Brexit, and whilst all these events have had an impact on travel, up until now there has been nothing that has threatened the whole world.
The scale of human suffering as a direct and indirect result of Covid-19 is without precedent, and beyond previous imagination, and it is in times like these we really see what companies and individuals are made of.
When the gravity of the situation became obvious, our first task at Mountain Kingdoms was to help those clients who found themselves stuck in various remote parts of the globe.
Then our attention turned to clients who were due to travel in the near future. From day one, we decided that where needed, due to FCO travel advice, destination or airline schedule restrictions, we would cancel holidays, asking customers due to travel if they would like to transfer, without charge, to an alternative holiday in 2020 or 2021, or if not, offering a refund. This policy follows the law brought about by the European Package Travel Regulations 2018 and we continue to adhere to this.
Many of you transferred to later dates, or to different holidays, and we are very grateful for that. Understandably and naturally, in such uncertain times, some chose to take full refunds. We thank you for your continued patience as we have worked our way through this large task.
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the travel trade, through ABTA, AITO and ABTOT, has been lobbying the government to change the current law in order to help cash-strapped travel companies. The proposed change would allow tour operators to suspend an existing holiday due to exceptional circumstances, and instead of refunding customers, issue them with a Refund Credit voucher which could be used to book another holiday at a later date. It is intended these Credit vouchers will be financially protected by the tour operator’s bonding (usually ATOL or ABTOT) and valid for over 12 months.
This law may, or may not, happen but I have decided that Mountain Kingdoms will continue to offer free transfers, and if requested, refunds, until such time as a new travel law is passed. It is sad to think some airlines and large travel companies are not setting a similar example at this time.
Please be assured that Mountain Kingdoms is a strong, financially stable company and we will still be here long after the coronavirus has come and gone.
I am sure that when this is all behind us you will be keen to travel again, and I do hope that you will appreciate the stance we have taken at this extremely difficult time.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO): https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
World Health Organisation (WHO): https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019
Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA): https://www.abta.com/news/coronavirus-outbreak
Useful Statistics: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/
At Mountain Kingdoms we are committed to Responsible Tourism and ensuring that all our holidays are undertaken in a way which is socially, environmentally and culturally sound. As part of this commitment we have now joined the Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency initiative.
Michael Rutland has over 16 years’ experience leading cultural tours in Bhutan for Mountain Kingdoms. Having retired in 2018, he’s happily decided that he’s not yet ready to give up sharing the magic of Bhutan – his adopted home country - and will once again be leading a departure of our Definitive Cultural Tour of Bhutan this November.
Due to demand, we have increased the number of departures of our group holidays in Uzbekistan - Silk Road to Samarkand & Silk Road Mountains & Monuments, Uzbekistan.