There’s no doubt that traveling at the moment is...different. After locking down for nearly 7 months, we watched and we waited for what felt like the right time to reconnect in person. Since August 2020, we’ve launched in-person Chapters in Crete, Gran Canaria, and Playa del Carmen. Our times together reminded us how much we dearly missed our global family.
Our experiences from those first Chapters together also informed our decision on how WiFi Tribe will continue to travel during Covid-19. In this post, we would like to shed more light on the specific actions we are taking to be as safe as possible.
Why is WiFi Tribe choosing to travel during a global pandemic?
This was a decision we didn’t make lightly. Back in August, we grappled with moral debates, safety concerns, and an overall stress of contributing to the spread of the virus. We knew members were eager to see each other and some had already started traveling on their own. As countries began opening their borders, we questioned our ability to facilitate as-safe-as-possible international Chapters. By dedicating resources and a team to keep local communities, our members, and teammates free from harm, we decided to slowly and carefully start traveling again.
By continuously recognizing the risks we hope to regularly question if we’re doing enough to keep everyone protected. If you’re curious about the actions we’ve taken so far and how we’re shifting guidelines to react to the ever-changing landscape of global travel, read on below.
How do we choose Chapter locations during the pandemic?
Our first Chapters in Crete, Gran Canaria, and Playa del Carmen all followed these first three questions:
1. Are there governmental restrictions in place designed to keep cases low?
Countries with standard preventive measures in place are on our list. Things like restrictions on large gatherings, mask requirements, and limited restaurant capacities help us protect local communities and each other. However, if a country is in a high state of restrictions, it’s removed from our list until a later date.
2. Is there access to paid medical services to facilitate the testing of members?
If a country does not require a negative PCR test before entering, WiFi Tribe is requiring and facilitating member tests immediately upon their arrival. We aren’t using public health services in order to avoid straining the local healthcare system. Instead, we’re covering 50% of the private testing costs and asking members to pay the remaining 50%.
3. Are our accommodations fit for reducing transmission among members?
We look for accommodations that are spacious and provide ways for members to isolate if needed. This means trying to house all members in the same home, securing large properties, or renting multiple apartments within the same building. Even when these preferences aren’t possible, we are aiming to on set up retreat-style Chapters that are a bit more remote, closer to nature, and away from the buzz. The idea is to reduce contact with people outside of our group and provide a space for members to interact within the perimeters of the accommodations.
These above baseline questions remain integral to our process in choosing destinations. But now with four completed Chapters under our belts, we assessed the questions we missed.
Moving into 2021, we’ve included these important additions:
4. What is the country's history with implementing lockdowns and closing borders?
We’re constantly monitoring restrictions and border closures of places we’d like to visit. In addition to current regulations, we’re looking back at 2020 to assess how each country has handled past lockdowns and if members would have difficulty repatriating if needed.
5. Is it high season or is there a large number of travelers in a specific area?
More and more, we’re seeing the positives of focusing on locations in their shoulder season. We want to find new destinations slightly off the beaten path where we can remain a “quaran-team”. Avoiding crowded areas and finding accommodations outside of city centers are becoming more of a priority in 2021.
These questions have largely steered how we’ve chosen the locations to date. If a location cannot offer good answers to any one of them, then we put it on the back burner until an appropriate time.
How do we manage our risks while on Chapter?
Risk management of Covid-19 on Chapter is something we take to heart. We are making everyone who wants to join the Chapter aware of the following guidelines and protocols:
Covid-19 Testing on Arrival
In most cases, members on Chapter will have to take a PCR test within a few days of arriving. These tests are subsidized so WiFi Tribe covers 50% and members pay 50% of the total cost. Once test results are received (and are hopefully all negative), we start thinking about how we can safely explore the area with respect to all local regulations. Of course, if a country requires a negative PCR test for entry, members are expected to follow the local requirements to attend a Chapter.
Our group sizes are already limited to 25 members whether there’s a pandemic or not.
Back in August, we didn’t customize the size of the Chapter to the type of housing we secured. We made a blanket rule to have a maximum of 18 attendees on a Chapter. Since this decision, we’ve decided to now cap the number of participants depending on the type of accommodation and the location, instead.
For example, if we have a property with ample space inside and outdoors, lots of ensuite bathrooms, and well-ventilated community spaces, then we can host a larger group. However, if our home is compact and missing key amenities, then we’ll reduce the group size to a number that’s appropriate for the space.
New Prevention Protocols
Every Chapter has a protocol document tailored to the specific location we’re in. This document details everything about the local regulations, where to get tested, and what numbers to call if symptoms appear. It’s sent to everybody who is participating in the Chapter before we arrive.
In addition to receiving location-specific information, we’ve created guidelines for what members can and cannot do while attending a Chapter. Using internationally recognized methods for mitigating the spread of Covid-19, members must ask themselves four questions to assess if an activity or situation is safe:
If I go there or join that activity...
- Can I wear a mask?
- Can I socially distance myself (at least 2m)?
- Is it an open and well-ventilated area?
- Will less than 50 people be in attendance?
If the answer is “no” for any of these questions, that activity doesn’t pass the test and is discouraged. If any member participates in an activity that has made others feel unsafe, we also reserve the right to ask that person to self-isolate and take a PCR test at their own cost.
We also have two forbidden behaviors:
- Members can not bring external visitors to the Chapter accommodations. This includes any non-Chapter members as well as external visitors meaning dates, family, or friends who may be in the same city as the Chapter.
- Members can not break any local regulations or restrictions. This includes regulations like curfews, attending large gatherings, purchasing alcohol outside of approved times, etc.
In a time when everyone’s risk tolerance is different, it’s essential that WiFi Tribe spaces feel safe. We’re striving to create a place where people can relax knowing everyone has been tested and agreed to not unnecessarily put themselves or others in harm's way.
Required International Health Insurance
We believe all free public healthcare services should be reserved for the local population. Because of this we require all Chapter participants to have travel insurance with international healthcare coverage in case of any medical emergencies. Options like SafetyWing and Cigna International offer coverage that includes Covid-related events.
Positive Test Protocols
All of our Chapter Hosts will follow a robust process if someone in the group becomes unwell, needs to self isolate, or tests positive for Covid-19. Our processes are taken from EU medical authorities and will work in combination with all local protocols.
At a high-level, if anyone tests positive we’re requiring all members to self-isolate until a medical professional can administer a new test at least 4 days from their last contact with the ill person. If a government provides separate housing for those with a positive test, we’ll work with local authorities to safely move them to the approved location. If governments don’t provide housing, we’ll help the ill member secure new accommodations immediately and arrange transportation that limits human contact as much as possible.
Do these guidelines make a Chapter Covid-19 proof? No, they don’t. We recognize the impossibility of completely eliminating the risks. Our aim is to limit our exposure as much as we can and make decisions that protect local communities, our members, and teammates.
We aren’t operating in a vacuum and are committed to challenging our guidelines in a very agile way as we move through this year. We will continue to do our best to be an example of conscious traveling during Covid-19.
Going forward, being more transparent about what to expect from our Chapters will be at the forefront of our messaging. To date, we’ve made small missteps that we won’t repeat because the effects are more serious than ever before. As we navigate these uncharted waters, we’ll make decisions the way we always have: respect and protect the local community in combination with keeping members safe.