With so much uncertainty in the news these days, we've been getting some questions about next year's tours: Will vaccines, testing, or masking be required? Will you need to show a vaccine card to get into restaurants and sites? What happens if a group member tests positive while on tour?
With the surge of the Delta variant and return to mask mandates making headlines, it's understandable that many of you are wondering how this latest wave of COVID-19 may affect our tour program. In short, you have lots of questions. And I wish I had answers. But the honest truth is that we don't, and can't, know the specifics yet. Things are continuing to evolve rapidly — and, like you, we're waiting to see how things shake out before we set new policies.
What I can guarantee is that we'll be sticking with our health-and-safety-first approach. In general, it's safe to assume that we'll strictly adhere to all regulations in the countries we visit. And, of course, we'll expect our groups to respect the health and well being of their fellow tour members, guides, and our European partners by following the health and safety directives set by Rick Steves' Europe and local officials. To ensure everyone on the bus is on the same page, all tour members are required to sign our Health and Safety Pledge prior to joining a tour.
We understand that returning to international travel feels like a big leap of faith right now. But there are many months between now and when our first tours depart next spring. And the one thing we know for sure is that things will change, then change again, before we start up those buses. However, we have faith that in due time, the "new normal" will become clear. And come what may, our commitment to you is that we'll set fair COVID-19 policies in line with current conditions and local regulations.
In summary: We need to plan and so do you but it's premature to make any COVID-related decisions for spring 2022 travels (or beyond) at this time. We're committed to putting health and safety first, communicating clearly with tour members, and having straight-forward refund policies. I'll remind you that all 2022 tour deposits are 100 percent refundable for any reason until December 31, 2021, and I'll predict we'll know a lot more about how travel will look in 2022 by this December. It's our hope and reasonable expectation that the COVID-19 situation will improve, and Europe will be welcoming American tour groups safely in 2022.
We look forward to keeping you in the loop and reviewing our situation in December.