Updated May 21, 2020 at 4:30 PM EST
Our students' safety and well-being will always remain our primary concern. Gerber Tours, Inc. is actively monitoring the coronavirus (COVID-19) issue with great attention. We are in constant communication with our suppliers and with various governmental agencies that are knowledgeable about the situation. In addition, we are coordinating with industry and consumer groups to ensure that the safety and financial security of student and youth travelers and other customers remain a top priority.
We will continue to do our best to keep you as well informed as possible. We ask for patience and understanding as we work expeditiously to provide our customers with information, resources and resolutions. Below are some of the agency websites which we monitor daily. We recommend that you regularly monitor them as well.
US State Department: travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories.html/
Centers for Disease Control Travel Information: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html
World Health Organization: www.who.int/
US Travel Association: www.ustravel.org/toolkit/emergency-preparedness-and-response-coronavirus-covid-19
Will my tour operate?
Due to the current pandemic conditions, we have postponed most trips scheduled to depart within the next couple of months. We are in close contact with your group’s Tour Organizer to discuss the available options for each group.
With the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus, our group cancellation policy (see below) that is applicable in such situations is intended to give your organization more flexibility to cancel or postpone your tour or alter the itinerary should there be the need to do so.
We are also working closely with our suppliers, requesting that they be sympathetic and understanding during this very unusual situation. Each trip can involve as many as 20 different vendors (pre-paid hotels, buses, entertainment venues, restaurants, and so on), each with their own policies for cancellations and refunds. We are working with each to rebook or secure refunds where possible.
Why are there cancellation fees?
Cancellation fees are designed to reimburse us for the cost of what we must prepay and incur, such as non-refundable deposits to suppliers of services like airlines, hotels, bus companies, and theatre and entertainment venues. They are not designed to create any profit. Please understand that our commitment to you – as well as our investment – starts as soon as you book your tour, often more than a year in advance, and we work diligently on your behalf throughout the planning phase to ensure the highest quality of service at the lowest price for you and your group. In most cases, Gerber Tours representatives are still working on servicing your cancelled or postponed trip to ensure the best service possible, both to parents and school districts.
The non-refundable deposit allows us to make the investment on your behalf so that the trip we are planning is successful. We made that investment from the time we received the deposits and that investment is simply not recoverable by any other means. The non-refundable booking deposit is a “services rendered” investment that is required for us to service our customers to the level they expect.
Aren’t you receiving a bailout from the government?
There are no government “bailouts” for our company or the travel industry at large. Loans that may be offered under the CARES Act are designed to cover payroll and rent (for only 2 months) and are not allowed to be used to reimburse customer deposits. The work on your trip was started as soon as we received the non-refundable booking deposits and continued throughout the many months of tour planning and continued throughout the cancellation process where we were able to obtain refunds from almost all vendors on your behalf.
What is the significance of a "State of Emergency" declaration?
State and local governments can declare a State of Emergency, and some have done so with regard to the Coronavirus. Making such a declaration is not driven by any specific number of cases (or deaths) in the region and does not, in and of itself, impose any restrictions on activities in the area. One reason a State of Emergency may be declared is that it helps get access to state or federal funding.
What is the cancellation policy?
In addition to our standard cancellation policies, your agreement contains the following provision, which we added many years ago to address scenarios such as the one at hand. This provision gives our clients as much flexibility as possible when determining whether or not to cancel:
“Cancellations due to Governmental Action or Impossibility of Performance:
In the event a trip is canceled or postponed due to the actions of any governmental or civil authority, school or school district, or a cancellation is caused for any other reason beyond the control of Gerber, tour participants will be entitled to a refund of monies paid less non-recoverable expenses prepaid or incurred by Gerber and the non-refundable booking deposit.”
What happens if I purchased the Cancellation Protection option?
Even though you may not be canceling due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Cancellation Protection (CP) option does not apply during epidemics or acts of government. Specifically, the terms of the CP option state that “refunds under the program are not available in the unlikely event your trip is cancelled or in the event of acts of government, epidemics, force majeure events or acts of terrorism.”
What happens if I presently have the Cancellation Protection option and my tour has been postponed to a future date?
As long as the coronavirus pandemic is ongoing, your Cancellation Protection option does not apply. If you are unable to travel on the postponed date, our standard cancellation policy will be applicable. However, we will attempt to refund you additional amounts that we can obtain from our suppliers (e.g., airlines, hotels, bus companies, and theatre and entertainment venues). In addition, if the postponed trip cancels you may be entitled to a larger refund under the cancellation policy outlined above for “Cancellations due to Governmental Action or Impossibility of Performance”.
What happens if my school reschedules to a date when I cannot travel and I do not have the CP option?
In this unusual circumstance, our standard cancellation provisions would apply as of the original travel date. However, we will continue to press our suppliers for refunds and in turn refund to you all amounts we can recover from them.
How long are refunds taking to process?
We have spent months working with clients and vendors to develop a customized itinerary that met the needs of the teacher and their students. Trips can include 20 or more vendors who received payments in advance to reserve their services. These payments were made with deposits and payments from schools and students and may no longer be in the operators’ possession. We are working to rebook or secure refunds where possible. This is a time-consuming process—our team is working to return as much money as possible, as quickly as possible. We ask for patience and support while we advocate on your behalf.
Due to the unprecedented nature of the volume and cause of cancellations, we are estimating that refunds will take a minimum of 8-12 weeks to process from the date of cancellation. We completely understand how frustrating and challenging this is for everyone and we respectfully ask for your patience as we work through each refund as quickly and efficiently as possible in the order of the original departure date. In many cases, we must obtain refunds from vendors and suppliers (e.g. airlines, hotels, bus companies, etc.) that were already paid for your trip. This is made more challenging due to the vendors’ reduced staffing levels, large volume of requests they are receiving, and the limited remote work capabilities of each organization. For more information, please contact your Tour Organizer as we are keeping him/her updated on a regular basis.
What can we do to stay safe and healthy on tour?
Finally, we want to offer several suggestions already made by various organizations to help yourself and others stay safe and healthy:
- Do not touch any part of your face without first washing your hands.
- Avoid contact with persons who are already ill.
- Avoid unnecessary touching of other persons (e.g. shaking hands) and limit touching publicly shared surfaces where possible.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water.
- Carry and use hand sanitizer, especially if you cannot wash your hands.
Working together in the best interest of our students, we will get through this difficult challenge. We wish for you and your family to stay healthy and safe during this time.