17 Mar 5 PLACES TO VISIT DURING THE CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK
The Coronavirus is here! Dramatic headlines are flowing, misinformation is rampant and panic has officially set in… but hopefully and by now your cupboards are full of toilet paper, tissues and pasta so perhaps we should pause, relax, enjoy a cocktail (hopefully you stocked up on your favourite beverage) and think about that next holiday!
While the press and social media are clearly painting a scary picture of what weeks to come might look like, the reality is that we are all waiting to see what will unfold and how it will impact Australians. As I write this article, China is on the verge of recovering from this crisis (only 27 new cases were declared yesterday) but Italy kicked off its own lockdown a week ago. All we know for sure is that this is all temporary.
In this context my priority is (1) to ensure the well-being of customers, (2) to minimise the impact of this crisis on travel budgets, and (3) still provide travel options. And so with this in mind, I would suggest you follow the next steps.
What you should do now?
First, if you have already made travel arrangements, then you should regularly monitor what is happening at your planned destination. Is your destination likely to be a hotspot? Will local destination authorities deny you entry or ask you to self quarantine? Will you be required to self-quarantine as you come back to Australia? These are some of the things you should be mindful of.
Second, should you consider cancelling your plans then I encourage you to familiarise yourself with the terms of cancellation of your bookings to understand whether you are likely to pay cancellation costs and if so at what point. A number of airlines, cruise lines and travel operators have and continue to review their capacity, schedules as well as relaxing their cancellation policies so it is worth waiting until your next cancellation deadline to cancel your plans.
Third, if you are still planning to go, make sure to review and perhaps reconsider your transit hubs. Make sure that transiting through a particular airport/city that will not cause for you to be denied entry or self quarantine at your end destination. For example, you may want to reconsider going to the US via Europe . Again requirements change quickly so you have to think ahead and/or be reactive. With rules and regulation changing on a daily basis, you should ask your travel agent for assistance.
Fourth, If you are flying in Economy, you may want to consider upgrading. Business Class will provide that extra personal space, which you may now find is worth all the money. Some of you may even want to consider private jets. I hear it is a very popular form of transport these days!
Finally, if you are planning an upcoming holiday you will have the hard task of picking between what are considered safe destinations.
Where you should go?
While some may choose to hibernate for the next few months, others still have the urge to explore the world and discover new places. So where is it safe and reasonable to travel to? In the current context, close to home always feels like a good option and in our case Australia is probably as good a place as any. Actually the desolate Australian bush or some of the most remote Australian islands are probably the best place to be for the next few months so here are some options I would consider:
The Indian Pacific is a rail journey taking you from Perth, to Adelaide and Sydney in comfort and style. This 5 star, all inclusive experience is born out of one of Australia’s most remarkable surveying and engineering feats when the East to West rail track was first completed in 1917. Luxury cars have now replaced the livestock and it is an incredible way to discover the Australian outback, from the Blue mountains to the Nullarbor and every goldmine in between. If the Indian Pacific is something you always thought you would do later in life, well now is a great time to put it back at the top of your bucket list.
The Indian Pacific
El Questro is one of the most memorable places where to stay in the Kimberly region. The property boasts 700,000 acres of deep gorges, majestic mountains, thermal springs, mud and salt-flats, rainforests and cascading waterfalls. El Questro also caters for all with different types of accommodation from luxury to glamping to general camping so you are free to enjoy the Kimberley the way you want. Finally, El Questro also suits families with kids staying and eating for free at Emma Gorge. Suggested itineraries combine a 3 or 4 day stay at El Questro plus a week of 4 wheel driving across the Western Australian outback.
Emma Gorge’s accommodation is tented cabins, bringing you closer to nature and heaps more fun for the kids/grand-kids. The little ones can also be fed with a restaurant on premise as well so no need to worry. While remote, El Questro has everything you need to survive the Coronavirus!
Australia’s remote islands present appealing options for self-quarantine with breathtaking scenery, beaches, marine life and properties. Norfolk Island and Lord Howe will introduce you to another way of life where scenery will blow you away and where tranquility is a theme in its own right. Both islands are accessible with commercial flights. Lizard Island or Lady Elliott on the other hand are best to explore the great barrier reef and present incredible marine life, sharks, turtles you name it. Needless to say both Lizard and Lady Elliott provide an exceptional snorkeling and scuba-diving experience! These last 2 islands are however more difficult to access – A commercial flight followed by a boat or charter flight connection. A range of accommodation options are available on each island, although Lizard Island commands a premium.
Lord Howe Island
Lady Elliott Island
Alternatively, if you are looking at overseas destinations, it is worth considering Southern Africa, Russia or South America which have been marginally affected by the virus so far.
Namibia has so far presented no cases of coronavirus and offers plenty for the discerning traveller – from moon like landscape, to incredible red sand dunes and game reserves. This rugged country is rather inhospitable but provides a perfect place to hide from the Coronavirus. The luxury desert retreat you can stay at are indeed the perfect place for self quarantine and will make you feel so far away from civilization. Finally, as a former German “colony” and territory of South Africa, Namibia also presents a unique and mixed cultural heritage worth learning more about.
Chile has so far been somewhat spared by the virus with few cumulated cases and so it is another option to consider at the moment. Chile is a land of contrast. With more than 6,000kms of coastline along the Pacific ocean the country offers so much variety in landscape and experiences. From the desert of Atacama, to the ski fields of the Santiago back country, the vineyards of Valparaiso, the National Park of Torres del Paine, to the Chilean fjords or Easter Island, there is something for everyone in Chile.