Nepal’s recent seismic activity is considered to be the worst natural disaster to hit the country since 1934. Over 3,500 people are known to have died as a result of the 7.9 magnitude earthquake, and that number is generally expected to increase as relief efforts continue. The Foreign Office advises only essential travel to Nepal, and the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) has advised all travelers with plans to visit Nepal to change their arrangements.
Many tour operators have experienced loss due to natural disasters during in-progress trips. It is not yet clear to industry professionals what the long-term effects these disasters will have on tourism in Nepal, but these events are a clear reminder that preparation for worst-case scenarios is essential to the success of any tour operator. Taking extra steps to ensure the safety of both staff and customers is what sets tour operators apart when worst-case scenarios become reality.
Jagged Globe faced the worst when one of its tours was hit by an avalanche at Everest base camp. At least 17 are believed to have been killed and 61 injured when the avalanche hit. Exodus, another frequent operator in Nepal, was able to confirm that all 55 of its team members and customers who were in Nepal were safe. Intrepid Travel has confirmed that all of its customers are safe, but are experiencing difficulty in returning their customers home due to infrastructure damage in Nepal.
Intrepid has canceled all trips to Nepal until at least May 11, 2015 and is offering refunds or transfers to those with affected bookings. Exodus has canceled all trips for the next three weeks and is offering refunds or transfers as well. The ABTA in accordance with the Foreign Office has advised only essential travel to the country. Customers with package trips operated by ABTA tour operators will have the option to defer their date of travel, receive a full refund, or transfer their reservation.
Obviously, these events are devastating, but they demonstrate that even though tour operators always hope that nothing will go wrong, dangerous circumstances can arise with very little warning. For this reason it is absolutely essential that tour operators invest in quality liability insurance and make operational choices surrounding the scheduling of tours to minimize risk to team members and customers.