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COVID-19 Travel Update

Hello all of the Atoll Travel network,

We hope you are safe and most importantly well and have found interesting ways to keep yourselves entertained, amused, somewhat connected, hopefully working and whatever required to avoid going a bit weird from lockdown and isolation!

This curse of a Covid-19 pandemic is still unfolding to be the most unpredictable and tragic global event since World War II; the effects being felt medically, socially and economically by everyone in virtually all countries. Our sympathies to all that are affected medically and all still in varying degrees of lockdown; and we empathise with the vast number of businesses that will be experiencing some very tough times especially in the tourism, travel and hospitality sector.

The continually morphing situation of the past two months has meant an Atoll Travel newsletter has been started then binned on several occasions as the circumstances and predicted effects on the travel industry; airlines and countries changed before the ink was dry. 

However while the Covid-19 global situation still presents many uncertainties it would seem that since the peaking medical curve has been flattened we may possibly be past the bottom of the descending social and economic curve and that lockdown and isolation restrictions will be gradually eased from now. Surely a few beers with our mates at the local won’t be too far off now! 

The travel industry was one of the first sectors to be suddenly shut down and will be the last to recover partially or fully. The freedom to enjoy international surf travel to our favourite destinations may be up to a year away and in many respects may not be quite as we knew it. Immigration requirements; airport processing; airfares; airline protocols; aircraft design; resort, hotel & boat operations may all change in currently unforseen ways. 

But the waves and stoke of a perfect swell will remain the same and for over 50 years Surfers have been the most resilient and determined of travellers. In the 70s & 80s many undertook arduous journeys to live basic existences in the quest for perfect waves. These days the ease and comfort of the average surf trip is not that adventurous but the allure of those waves has not diminished. 

Now in its 25th year, Atoll Travel, along with its clients and tour operators, has contended with and adapted to circumstances of SARS, MERS, Swine Flu, tsunamis, cyclones, bombings, civil war plus the GFC recession and after each of these events the first to be frothing to get back on a plane to anywhere that had waves were surfers.

And it will be the same after the forced abstinence of this crisis and most of us will be keener than ever.  (A wise man once said “the one you miss out on is the one you’ll never catch up”; well, bugger that, we all deserve a double dose of tropical strength surf medicine next year to recover from this!)  

So Atoll Travel with its core staff will be here while we wait it out. We’re on a reduced roster; our socially distanced staff cocktail meetings may be starting a bit earlier but the company has established a strategy to be in the position to see it through and look after your travel bookings for 2021 and beyond. (Note: All funds held on behalf of clients and operators are secure in our “Client Account” with the Commonwealth Bank while our trading accounts are held separately in ANZ Bank accounts….so no chance of any mix-ups!) 

Travel Predictions (!?!)

At this stage the only surf trips on the horizon are to your local breaks or possibly next month load up the campervan and check out some of the coast you haven’t been to for years or never explored before; in Australia some of the bushfire affected regions could do with some extra $ as those local economies have really suffered a double hit. Be respectful of the local surfers and they will appreciate why they are seeing you there and not in Indo! (Don’t have a campervan? We can get you a great deal on Travellers Autobarn campervans available from locations around Australia)  

New Zealand, Fiji & the Pacific Islands:

Next opportunity; and first for international travel; is probably New Zealand and then possibly the Pacific islands that have not been overly afflicted with the covid virus. They will certainly benefit from having the inside running on the pent up demand for general tourism by the holiday deprived Australian & NZ markets for the initial period. There are plenty of breaks out in the Pacific islands which could get fairly popular by late 2020.

Indonesia:

Well, that’s anyone’s bet and I don’t think the bookies are keen on setting the odds just yet. Being in the Mentawais on boats or at the range of isolated resort options should be safe enough; or even some of the less populated island regions; but getting there is not going to be possible for quite a while yet. If governments lift restrictions for international travel progressively and selectively depending on the risk analysis of specific destinations Indonesia may well be later rather than sooner.  

The Maldives:

Quick to respond to the covid threat at the outset stopping arrivals from China on 31 January then progressively other affected countries until closing its border completely to arrivals on 27 March. The outbreak was generally contained and limited to a handful of resort islands and a charter boat however eventually emerged in the densely populated capital of Male’ on 13 April and a significant surge in cases has occurred since, mainly in the expat worker population. 

With an economy that is 85% dependent on tourism the Maldives will want to open back up as soon as safely possible; but they will not do so prematurely or without a revised protocol of how tourists will arrive into the country and circulate.  

Last week the Maldives Tourism Minister Mr Ali Waheed stated that the government is hoping to kick-start tourism in the country as soon as possible speculating that the country’s “best-case scenario” in which virus transmission is controlled within a month of the surge and tourism could resume operations from July onwards. The “moderate scenario” is for tourism to commence from October onwards but he added that the Maldives would not open its borders before the outbreak was successfully contained and in the most negative possible outcome the country would remain closed for the remainder of the year.

When tourism does return the Maldives will take advantage of its geography and “one-island-one-resort” structure and be one of the safest destinations in that arriving tourists after clearing through Immigration & Customs at the airport only have a very short walk to the airport jetty then a speedboat ride or seaplane to get to the resorts or charter boats, therefore exposure to the general population and other tourists is minimal.

We Appreciate Your Support

We would like to thank those clients waiting for airline refunds for their continued patience; and thank all those who have contacted us with messages of support including some with very kind words that were particularly appreciated.    

Until another update….hang in there; keep those hands clean and avoid the rush later by contacting us now to get your 2021 bookings started! 

Cheers,
Ian and Atoll Travel team