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COVID-19

A note from our founders regarding COVID-19

Chelsea and Chiva ona volcano in Guatemala

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Heart of Travel has chosen to be prudent and exercise extreme caution in order to protect the health and safety of our travelers, staff, and freelancers. We will not be conducting any group tours in 2020 and all 2021 tours are tentative, depending on the status of the pandemic as we enter the new year.

As of now, Guatemala, where we are headquartered, has closed its borders and suspended both international and domestic tourism until further notice. If and when the borders reopen and local tourism resumes, we will be shifting our focus towards day tours and small private tours here in Guatemala, in hopes to keep us afloat. From there, we will be motivating people to purchase group trips in 2021 with our new flexible refund policy. 

Cuba has also done a wonderful job of containing the virus and is slowly reopening to international tourism. We may resume private group tours for families and close friends traveling in the last quarter of 2020, depending on the situation in both Cuba and the U.S.

If you have signed up for a trip in 2020 then you’ve already received an email from us discussing your options. For people considering joining a trip in 2021, we realize that committing to travel during a time of such uncertainty is not easy for anyone, therefore we are making adjustments to our reservation and cancellation policies which you can read more about below.

Heart of Travel has been devastated by this pandemic, like so many individuals, families, and businesses. However, we are excited to be offering some new products and services soon which you can enjoy from the comfort of your own home. We know that, when the time is ready, we will come back stronger than ever before in the tourism industry and can’t wait to make new memories with all of you! We thank you all for your support during this time. 

New Refund Policies

With so much uncertainty in the world right now we understand that signing up for a trip is a tough commitment for many during this time. We want our travelers to start feeling excited and hopeful about travel again which is why we’ve made some adjustments to our refund policy in order to give you greater peace of mind.

Trip Postponed by Heart of Travel

In the event, a Heart of Travel trip is not possible due to COVID-19 (be it due to border closures or because we’ve determined the trip is not in the best interest of travelers and/or employees) we will notify participants immediately of the cancellation or postponement of the trip. In the event, the trip is canceled less than 59 days prior to the start date the trip will not be refundable but rather postponed. Likewise, you can receive a full 100% credit for the amount paid, good towards any other Heart of Travel trip to any destination at any time.

If the trip is canceled with 60 days of notice or more, travelers will have the option to receive a full refund, join the trip at the postponed date or transfer the amount paid to an alternative trip.

Trip Cancelled by Client

In the event, a Heart of Travel trip is not canceled but you have chosen not to join the trip for whatever reason, including COVID-19 the following policy will apply:

  • Cancellation 90 days or more before the trip start date: Fully refundable
  • Cancellation 60 – 89 days before the trip start date: Loss of deposit, the rest of the trip payment is refundable
  • Cancellation 59 or fewer days before the trip’s start date: No refunds guaranteed but the option for the group to collectively postpone the trip or as an individual, you could apply 100% of your payment towards a future trip to the same destination or 70% towards a Heart of Travel trip to an alternate destination

The reason we cannot guarantee a refund with less than 60 days’ notice (be it a client cancellation or a postponing of the trip by Heart of Travel due to force majeure) is that Heart of Travel has to begin paying out third party vendors such as hostels, homestays, transportation companies, etc. However, if you select the “cancel for any reason” option on your travel insurance policy they should cover any losses in the event you choose to cancel with less than 60 days’ notice instead of going on the trip at the new day or accepting the credit voucher. 

We are committed to keeping you safe

We want you to book our trips with confidence, knowing that we are doing all we can amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic to keep you healthy and safe while traveling with us. As a small group tour company, client safety and health have always been a top priority to us, as is the health and safety of our employees and freelancers. Now, we are ready to take things even further and we will be implementing the following protocols on all upcoming tours:

Travel insurance

Prior to COVID-19, we allowed individuals to opt-out of purchasing travel insurance at their own risk, as indicated on our standard liability waiver. We will now be requiring all participants to submit proof of travel insurance prior to the start of the tour. If you need assistance shopping for policies we are happy to help.

Transportation Protocols

We’ve increased the sanitization protocols for our vehicles and will require all cars to be thoroughly disinfected at the end of every day of the tour. We ask that you please do not leave anything in the car overnight and do your best to remove any personal items and dispose of your trash in the appropriate fashion.<br /> We are also reducing the number of people allowed in each vehicle to allow for greater social distancing efforts as well as maximum comfort during your journey.

Staff Training

Our staff is now certified by the WHO on detection, prevention, response, and control of COVID-19. If you develop certain symptoms on a tour, you may be asked to quarantine during the trip and you may be required to have a doctor clear you before rejoining us. Likewise, if a participant is confirmed as COVID-19 positive during the trip the entire group may need to quarantine until each person has been cleared to resume traveling. We are hopeful that by the time our tours resume there is a vaccine and/or an antibody test in order to drastically reduce or eliminate the need to quarantine abroad.

10 Person Max.

Our groups have always been small (capped at 12 - 14 max, depending on the destination), to help foster deeper friendships and connection. In response to COVID-19, we have capped our tours at 10 people max until further notice. While traveling with a group may still come with risks, know that your exposure will be limited due to the small size of our group.

Our Policy on Face Masks

The requirement of face masks while traveling will depend on the laws of the country we are visiting as well as the discretion of Heart of Travel tour leaders based on the number of cases at the time of the tour. We are not planning to resume our group tours until 2021, at which point we hope the virus will be contained enough that the use of facemask will not be mandatory, or even necessary, during the trip. That being said, should you choose to wear a mask that decision will be fully respected and supported by Heart of Travel. Additionally, we recommend that everyone bring a mask with them for use at the airport and in crowded places such as markets in the event an outbreak occurs during our travels.

Our Extended Family

We will be reviewing the safety and health measures that all of our partners, including restaurants and hotels, are implementing to confirm they are complying with all of the necessary sanitation standards to keep you healthy. That being said, keep in mind that hygiene standards in some destinations are not the same as in the United States or Canada. In the event, our tour includes a stop at an establishment you are not comfortable with you may opt-out and ask for an alternative option, which we will gladly accommodate whenever possible. Keep in mind, we choose to work with boutique properties and small locally-owned businesses that are committed to reducing your exposure and protecting their own employees. Please note that our hotel partners are committed to intensive cleaning schedules, and as such, certain amenities of a property, such as a gym or pool may be closed intermittently.

Covid-19 Waivers

In addition to our standard liability waiver, we will be sending out a waiver to be signed by all participants, prior to the start of our tour. This waiver is to declare that to the best of your knowledge you are not currently infected with COVID-19 and are feeling physically healthy to travel. Please note as things continue to unfold, some countries may require proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to entry. We will be sure to keep you informed as to what, if anything, is required for legal entry into our destination country. If before your trip you contract COVID-19, PLEASE don’t travel with us. Email or call us instead to see what can be done with your trip payment.

Flexibility

We’re doing all we can to continue sharing Latin America and Spain with you in a safe, responsible, and ethical manner. Please note that our tour itineraries may be subject to last-minute changes, at the discretion of our tour leaders, in order to keep you safe and healthy while staying true to our mission of ethical and responsible travel. As situations change rapidly day-by-day throughout the world, now more than ever, if we don’t feel it’s safe to visit a particular city, we may be forced to amend the itinerary with little to no notice. We’ll do our absolute best to avoid any substantial changes during our tours, but we ask our travel community to remain flexible with us and trust the advice of our team of experts.

What does this mean for Heart?

Running a small business is hard. Running a small business with a staff that is made up predominantly of women and POC is even harder. Running a small business that relies on convincing people to travel to parts of the world that are often portrayed in a negative light is extremely hard. Running a small business with high ethical standards that pays its employees and third-party providers above the industry standard is perhaps the hardest.

At Heart of Travel, we’ve always been the underdogs and on top of all the challenges mentioned above you can throw in a couple of earthquakes, occasional political unrest, and a volcanic eruption or two. Yet we’ve always managed to fight, and prevail, not only for ourselves but for others.

We are incredibly grateful for the support we received early on when the pandemic first hit and it’s thanks to people’s generous donations, along with grants and some government assistance, that we have been able to stay in business. Currently, we are hard at work to launch two new exciting projects in order to keep our business afloat and help the communities we work with at the same time! Keep your eyes peeled for our online academy for Spanish Language Learning as well as an exclusive line of handmade artisan goods for your home. 

Heart of Travel is no longer accepting donations, as there are many other people with greater needs than us at this time. If you’re interested in making a donation to support those most affected by the pandemic here in Guatemala we recommend doing so here at the GoFundMe page for Sumate Antigua. Sumate Antigua is a local, grassroots organization that is feeding families and helping to deliver other necessary goods to those most affected by the pandemic. 

If you would like to make a monthly contribution to Heart to help keep us going while we are in our creation phase you can visit our Patreon and get access to exclusive content for our patrons! 

cuba tour three girls admiring the view
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