September 1, 2020
We're Ready for Europe — But Not Until Europe Is Ready for Us
I'm always excited around the time of year when people start signing up for tours and our entire staff gets energized at the thought of sharing Europe with our travelers.
But this year is different. COVID-19 essentially shut down tourism in Europe for 2020 and we've canceled all of our 2020 tours.. We're hopeful that 2021 will bring better news, and it's our intention to run Rick Steves tours in 2021 — but only if we can do so safely and reliably.
In order to be ready for whatever 2021 brings, we've already booked hotels and buses, and our guides are standing by for an exciting slate of tours, as showcased in our 2021 catalog. We could start taking deposits for these tours today. (In fact, many other tour companies are already booking for 2021.) But we've decided to wait until we're confident that the time is right — rather than risk having to cancel tours later, causing needless disappointment. In these uncertain times, we believe that patience is critical. And we hope that you'll be willing to wait along with us.
Much as I'm eager to set foot in Europe once again, I recognize that by holding off for now, I'm investing in the future. At Rick Steves' Europe, we believe that waiting until the time is right will help defeat this virus...and earn us a lifetime of safe and healthy travels later on.
We've spent the last few months preparing for lean times, and we are fully prepared to hunker down for as long as it takes. Rest assured: When this is over, we'll still be here. In the meantime, we have our corps of guides ready in Europe and our home-office staff hard at work making sure we have a smart and solid plan. And when the time is right, we'll begin taking (refundable) deposits so our travelers can hold a seat on the tour of their dreams.
When will that be? As CEO of Rick Steves' Europe, before I give the green light, I'll need to see a proven track record that organized tourism in Europe is back up and running — safely, responsibly, and without risky and frustrating false starts. While we'll wish all the best to tour companies who are first out of the gate, we're determined to be conservative and patient.
When we do begin booking, the theme for our 2021 tours will be flexibility. Our deposit conditions will be modified to provide the time you need to finalize the travel decision that's right for you. We'll re-evaluate our tours (hotels, buses, activities) and train our guides with the most up-to-date, science-based health guidelines in mind. And we'll work to offer the best possible mix of safety precautions and the vivid experiences that make European travel the Rick Steves way so rewarding.
Most important, we'll err on the side of safety and taking care of our customers. We'll reassess the situation on an ongoing basis to make adjustments — and we'll resist the temptation to go forward if we believe doing so would compromise the health or safety of our tour members and guides. And as in 2020, if we cancel any tour in 2021 due to safety concerns, all tour members will receive a full and prompt refund.
With all of that said, this pandemic has taught us that a little travel dreaming can be very good medicine. So, while we're not taking sign-ups yet, we're excited to share our "best-case-scenario" lineup of 2021 Rick Steves tours.
It's my hope that this lineup will bring you some comfort with the anticipation of better things to come, and let you begin planning for what your 2021 may hold. And if you have your eye on a specific itinerary, we've retooled our website to let you join an advance notification email list — so you'll be the first to know when it's open for actual booking. (To be sure you get all the latest info on Rick Steves tours, sign up for our monthly Tour News e-newsletter. If you'd like to get your name on a particular tour’s advance notification list, browse our tours and select the tour and departure date you're interested in.)
I believe that, sooner or later, we'll all be enjoying the Europe of our dreams once again. When that happy day comes, we'll keep on traveling with our longstanding passion for teaching, sharing, and experiencing Europe — and a renewed commitment to health and safety. As a company and a gang of travelers, we remain committed to our mission: to give our customers the best possible experience in Europe.
Happy Travels (even if we're all just staying home for a while),