Lisa Groom of walking tour operator interNATIONAL PARKtours tell Great Walks how the pandemic has affected them and what their plans are for 2020 and beyond.
What has your company been doing during lockdown?
Early in the lockdown, we were busy cancelling our early to mid-year 2020 walking tours all over Australia and the world. It was a very stressful time for staff, clients and our local operators overseas especially when we are all so used to travelling without any restrictions. JobKeeper has enabled us to keep all of our current staff while we reviewed our Queensland and Australia wide tours for the rest of 2020 and our 2021 international tour calendar. It has definitely been harder to plan future interstate or international tour when there are so many factors such as border control, guest health, transport and social distancing. Our office staff has been nimble and flexible with home based work, our tour leaders are suggesting some great new programs and we are working on upgrading our website. Finally, we are itching to get back into Lamington National Park, our back yard which has been closed since September 2019 bushfires.
Now that people are free to travel again what destinations are you focusing on and do you have anything new?
We are initially focusing on our home state of Queensland but also have 2020 tours to South Australia’s Flinders Ranges and Tasmania’s Flinders Island. New tours to North and Central Qld are also on the cards (contact us for expressions of interest). In 2021, we will return to Tasmania, Northern NSW, and Western Australia. With the exception of New Zealand, international travel is something we are postponing till the second half of 2021 and some planned destinations include Hokkaido, Portugal and Sri Lanka. We are also talking with new partners about a collection of wellbeing focused journeys going forward. Details to be announced!
How will you be dealing with issues like social distancing, hygiene etc to guarantee clients safety.
We will be taking extra steps to minimise COVID-19 risk and following best practice operating procedures. This includes tag-along options on some tours (self-drive rather than bus travel), additional pre-trip screening for guests, increased hygiene and cleaning practices on all tours, adjusting group sizes where required, physical distancing measures on the tour and increasing our capacity to respond to guests or guides health on tour. We are currently completing the Quality Tourism Australia COVID Safe Plan which will further enhance the health and safety procedures for guests, tour leaders and employees.
What would you say to a Great Walks reader who is considering going on a walking tour like yours?
Our clients are coming out of lockdown saying they can’t wait to get back on the walking tracks and nor can we! This whole experience highlights the importance of nature for our mental and physical health. The social connections and community creation on a small group walking tour are something we always aspire to. Now more than ever, we want to honour the simplicity of walking and what it does for our wellbeing. Please consider one of our Short Breaks to Girraween or Lamington National Park as an introduction to what we do.