Since April 19, it is again possible to travel outside the borders of Belgium. Admittedly, the initiative remains strongly discouraged and even more than discouraged. However, there is a good chance that you will still be tempted by the adventure.
In the literal sense, as in the figurative sense, because no matter the destination, embarking on a trip has never been so complicated. First, there are the access conditions put in place by others countries, including in particular the issuance of a negative PCR test and/or quarantine of at least ten days (see box below).
Then there are the return conditions imposed by the Belgian government (guaranteed quarantine on return from a red zone). In this regard, keep in mind that, if you do not have the possibility of teleworking, you will have no income during this period.
Then there is this constant uncertainty about the evolution of the epidemic on your future vacation spot in the days and weeks to come.
Fortunately, there are still destinations that in principle allow you to escape quarantine (and their number should logically increase by the start of the summer – see question 2).
Otherwise, tour operators have adapted and now offer more flexibility and guarantees (see question 5) in case a destination should return to red before departure.
1/ Where can I travel “serenely”?
Currently, most tour operators have offers mainly located in orange zones of the European Union. This is for example the case of Portugal, the Balearic Islands, or the Alicante region of Spain regarding the imminent departures from TUI.
The offer of this tour operator will expand further from May 19, 2021 (because all trips to countries in the red zone have been canceled until May 18, 2021). “Some Greek islands have gone back to orange this week, so they will be offered again in our offer at that time,” explains Piet Demeyere, its spokesperson.
Why not before? “We have made a habit of canceling our trips – if necessary – three weeks before the departure date in order to allow our customers to organize themselves,” he replies. Especially since they have the option of changing destination free of charge (question 5).
On the side of Connections, the supply is also very limited at the moment. Its customers make reservations and travel mainly to Malaga, Italy, the Balearic Islands, Greece, the Canary Islands, and Iceland (which is currently one of the only completely green areas on the island of Malta).
“Further is Dubai (which is in the red zone, editor’s note) which won all the votes and, surprisingly, travelers have booked a trip to Rwanda, because it is the only country outside Europe in code green that accepts travelers from our country without limits”, according to the explanations of Frank Bosteels, its spokesperson.
What about Neckermann? At the time of writing these lines, this tour operator, which had to place itself under legal protection (see question 6), did not wish to answer our questions.
2/ What about this summer?
While Club Med planned to reopen the doors of several of its European Resorts at the end of May and June (especially in France Sicilyin Greece Portugal and the French West Indies), Connections is counting on a significant recovery in activity in Europe for the summer in classic destinations such as Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Greece.
“Popular destinations in the Mediterranean are developing strategies to save what can still be saved for the high tourist season”, specifies Frank Bosteels.
“Like Croatia for example, who will give priority to vaccinating all people working in tourism while Europe is doubling down on the vaccination of its population and is working hard on the creation of a health passport.”
3/ Are there any changes in the offers?
Considering that travelers wish to avoid the masses, Connections has planned, among other things, to focus on a city-trip offer in less popular cities such as Vilnius, and Port Where Valence. “Building on the success of last year, we are also planning a new edition of Basecamp, a luxury campsite in the middle of nature”, adds Frank Bosteels.
“We have also rented out around ten campervans, commercial vehicles converted into mobile homes. We had ordered more, but the manufacturers are unable to meet the demand for this new tourist product which is on the rise.”
“The trend is to rent bungalows and there will be no last-minute offers for this type of accommodation.”
At TUI, there is currently a big trend in booking bungalows. Mainly in Belgium and a little in neighboring countries. “These are consumers who do not want to leave any room for uncertainty for this summer”, explains Piet Demeyere.
“They don’t want to depend on any restrictions for their days off. Therefore, even though we have expanded our offer in this regard, you have to hurry to book, because we are sure that we will not have the last offer. minute for this type of accommodation.”
He adds that there is also a very strong demand for small hotels (5 bedrooms maximum). “They are gaining popularity.”
4/ What is workation?
Like Club Med, TUI is also one of the tour operators offering an offer combining telework and holidays abroad (under the name of workation).
Broadly speaking, hotels are doing everything they can to ensure that their teleworking vacationers have a room and/or premises allowing them to work from home in good conditions (including an excellent wifi connection).
Note that for any reservation until June 4 (for departures until June 6), Club Med allows its customers to telecommute for a month for the price of two weeks in several of its Resorts.
Admittedly, some hotels such as those in the Dominican Republic, Morocco, Turkey, or Mexico are located in the red zone. But if your employer allows you to telecommute for almost a month, there is no reason why you cannot telecommute from home during the quarantine imposed on your return.
5/ What are the guarantees in the event of a problem related to the pandemic?
“As we knew that Belgians would be hesitant to book holidays, given the uncertainty linked to the health crisis, we are now offering our customers the ability to change their trip up to four times up to one week before the departure date, free of charge and without justification“, says Piet Demeyer of TUI.
“At the moment, some of our customers who are used to going to Turkey are making reservations for Spain. If the conditions are met by June to finally leave there, they will be able to modify their reservation without any problem. that the prices offered could be much more attractive there.”
On his side, Sunweb allows its customers to benefit from a “Flexible Exchange” guarantee. It allows exchanging, here too free of charge and without justification the date of your vacation up to 6 weeks before departure.
A paid option (40 euros/person) allows you to carry out this exchange up to two weeks before departure
At the house of Connections, the “Flexi-guarantee” which allows changing the date of their trip up to 30 days before departure amounts to 20 euros for destinations in Europe and 35 euros for other destinations. This formula also provides travel reimbursement in the event of a negative travel review.
Moreover, in the event of the closure of the borders, of a Resort or of a circuit, of a city in quarantine, or of fortnightly measures to/from the destination of your stay, Club Med allows you to postpone or cancel your stay free of charge until the day of departure.
Be careful, if your tour operator cancels your vacation himself, he can offer you a voucher, but you have the right to refuse it. In this case, he has the obligation to reimburse you within 14 days for all of the sums involved.
6/ What if my tour operator goes bankrupt?
In principle, tour operators have insurance against financial insolvency. This is notably the case of Neckermann.
This means that in the event of bankruptcy, you will be reimbursed for the deposit paid or that you will be repatriated if you have already left.
7/ Is there anything new in terms of insurance?
Following the crisis, Club Med has adapted its “Total screen” insurance (extra). Whether a customer is contaminated by Covid or if he is in quarantine 48 hours before his departure, he will be able to cancel his trip free of charge.
But not everything pays off. As long as the crisis lasts, Club Med offers free medical assistance and comprehensive care (insured by Europ Assistance) to its customers in the event of contamination by Covid-19 during their stay.
At the house of Connectionscancellation insurance (surcharge) offered now covers cancellation costs in the event traveler contracts Covid-19 before departure.
In addition to its traditional cancellation insurance, TUI now offers “All Risk” cancellation insurance. This covers in particular the cancellation up to 75% in the event of an epidemic such as Covid-19, as well as the cost of quarantine at the destination.
Do not hesitate to compare the cancellation insurance and assistance offers of tour operators with those of more traditional insurers. And especially, read all the conditions carefully (notably exclusions) to prevent your escape from turning into yet another nightmare.
* EU: The Re-open EU platform delivers an almost real-time overview of the health situation in European countries as well as information on the various restrictions in force (including quarantine and screening requirements for travelers). Its mobile version is relatively well done and complete.
For example, if you are inquiring about France, it says that all travelers are subject to the requirement of a negative PCR test (and it must have been taken within 72 hours of arrival).
The app also specifies that “passengers will also be subjected to a PCR test” upon arrival. But what about those arriving by car? The app does not answer this question, nor does it clearly define the term “passenger”. However, she provides a free phone number for Covid-related questions.
We tested it and an operator told us that “passenger” refers to those who travel by train, bus, plane, or boat. She clarified that people traveling by car remain liable to be stopped at the border in order to be subjected, too, to an antigen test (which makes it possible to obtain a result within 15 to 30 minutes).
* Outside EU: the FPS Foreign Affairs platform (diplomatie.be) remains at your disposal to know all the conditions of access for the rest of the world (via the Travel advice tab by country).