TORONTO — Intrepid Travel is mandating full vaccinations for all travellers and tour leaders.
The new policy, in line with what many cruise lines and an increasing number of escorted tour companies are doing, is part of Intrepid’s pandemic-response initiative that also includes increasing on-the-ground resources in support of vaccine access and education, and committing AUD$100,000 towards improving global equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
“We are introducing a global vaccine mandate to not only ensure the safety of our travellers but the safety of our tour leaders, their families and the communities that we visit,” says James Thornton, CEO of Intrepid Travel.
“Unfortunately, the reality is that access to vaccines is not equal globally, and we cannot responsibly require leaders to be vaccinated if we don’t also help to advocate and improve their access to them.”
The mandatory vaccination policy for all Intrepid travellers and tour leaders is effective Sept. 1, 2021.
Until now, Intrepid required either proof of vaccination or a negative test within 72 hours.
Even with those requirements, 94% of travellers on Intrepid trips since May 2021 have been fully vaccinated, which will now be a requirement, says the company.
Intrepid says it has been clear that moving to a vaccine mandate for trips would only be possible with additional commitments to ensure tour leaders and the communities they visit are given equal access to vaccines. The vaccine mandate excludes limited local travel in Australia & New Zealand due to strict government lockdowns and international border closures.
Meanwhile Intrepid’s commitment to increasing on-the-ground resources in support of vaccine access and education has seen the company mobilize its 23 operational offices across five continents to offer on-the-ground support ranging from logistical and transportation resources to training and education.
In Cuzco, Peru, Intrepid started offering free transportation to a vaccination hub for trekking porters and their families, as well as accommodation. Intrepid’s Deputy Operations Manager, Maritza Chacacanta, also began advocating for a new site to be opened closer to the porters’ communities. At the start of July 2021, Intrepid had 0% of porters vaccinated. When the new site opened in Calca, that number jumped to 80% by August 1, 2021.
In Sri Lanka, to help address vaccine hesitancy, Intrepid’s Regional General Manager of Asia, Anu Karunatilaka, who is based in Colombo, hosted an information and Q&A session with Professor Neelika Malavige, a member of the World Health Organization’s technical advisory committee and the International Society of Infectious Diseases, to provide tour guides with access to quality information and education about COVID-19 vaccines.
Globally, Intrepid says it has also offered paid vaccination leave to make it easier for all staff to receive vaccinations as soon as they are eligible.
Intrepid’s philanthropic arm, The Intrepid Foundation, has committed to raise AUD$100,000 for UNICEF Australia, including an upfront kickstart donation of AUD $50,000 to their ‘Give the World a Shot’ fundraising appeal. UNICEF is leading the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation ever on behalf of the Global COVAX Facility, which will see two billion vaccine doses delivered in 190 countries to those who need them most by the end of 2022. One hundred percent of donations will go towards universal access to COVID-19 vaccines, supporting COVAX in their mission to vaccinate 30 percent of the global population by the end of 2021.
Thornton says: “Intrepid was founded on ideals of inclusivity and equality, and the entire travel industry must step-up to acknowledge and act on the current inequalities that persist around global access to COVID-19 vaccines. Ending the pandemic is not only about you and your vaccine. Just because travellers are vaccinated and ready to explore doesn’t mean that communities are vaccinated and ready to host you. Together, we have a responsibility to ensure that everyone can safely and fairly access vaccinations in every country around the world.”