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Tour guide/tour polices regarding sick tour members

Has Rick Steve’s Tours made any general policies about how tour members who arrive obviously sick or become sick during the tour will be instructed regarding their travel on the tour or methods for isolating them while on the tour?

Posted by
69 posts

Good point.. so much to consider... if they arrive sick they shouldn’t start the tour.. let’s hope everyone uses common sense..

Posted by
11417 posts

This from a pre-virus thread on the subject (from helpful RS moderator Laura):
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/if-you-re-sick-please-stay-home

While we can’t prevent someone from joining a tour if they are not
feeling well, keeping the group healthy is a priority on RSE tours. At
the first night’s meeting, the guide shares tips for staying healthy,
and encourages frequent hand washing, the covering of coughs, and the
use of hand sanitizer. The guide will also encourage our groups to
look out for one another like a family, including getting enough sleep
to avoid getting run down, and opting out of activities if they are
not feeling well.

Once the tour starts, if the guide notices a tour member is ill, or if
a tour member tells the guide they are ill, the guide will support
them in accessing health services by either directing or accompanying
them to a pharmacy or doctor. In some cases, depending on the type of
illness, a guide can request that the Tour Member (TM) opt out of
group activities. If a TM refuses to seek medical treatment, the guide
can then exclude the TM from participation until the TM obtains
certification from a doctor that he/she is not contagious.

Give the current situation, I've little doubt that tour leaders/guides are going to be especially vigilant about mandating medical treatment for TM's if there's any question of possible COVID-19 infection?

Posted by
5817 posts

I believe the advice in the U.K. is that if you think you have the virus NOT to go to the doctors, pharmacy or hospital. They will therefore need to retook at that area of policy.

Posted by
8504 posts

If you think you have the virus, don't just go to a doctor's office, clinic or emergency room. Contact them first and they will give you instructions. You could infect everyone else if you do this. This is what we were told where I am in the U.S.

Posted by
1756 posts

I would expect the entire tour group would be quickly quarantined if someone is suspected of having the dreaded lurgy

Posted by
28 posts

I read the comments on the previous forum page which is now closed. We had the same experience on our Ireland tour a few years back. This participant was very obviously ill (cough, sneezing, blowing nose and looked feverish). The problem was that this person continued to sit in a row of the bus mid-front where the greatest number of participants were seated. At least half of the group became ill with one requiring hospitalization after the tour (and had had several trips to the doctor during the tour). With the current coronavirus threat I would like to see a written policy from the RS organization provided to every tour participant regarding segregating oneself from the group when sick. I would also like to see boxes of Kleenex and bottles of hand sanitizer in prominent locations on the bus. Bus drivers should also wipe down seats and metal surfaces at the end of each day. Should temperatures be checked at the beginning of the tour and feverish participants not be allowed to join and be provided a full refund for the tour?

We typically go on tour during the fall; most of the participants on the eight tours we have taken are over 60 and are considered at greater risk from this virus. I will protect myself as best I can by wearing gloves on the bus.

Posted by
109 posts

Not just "suspected". People get sick for other reasons too and they don't have that much quarantine. :)

Would think prev advice about contacting health people for instructions would be best. Of course if you're eventually tested positive for the (current) plague then the rest of the tour might get the full treatment.

Posted by
5817 posts

You would like to think the tour guide will know the relevant number to call for medical advice. In the UK it is 111 for NHS direct. I imagine every country has a similar service.

Posted by
11417 posts

I think the point was for the tour leader/guide to follow the current recommendations for medical assessment, whatever those are.

Posted by
2282 posts

While we can’t prevent someone from joining a tour if they are not
feeling well, keeping the group healthy is a priority on RSE tours. At
the first night’s meeting, the guide shares tips for staying healthy,
and encourages frequent hand washing, the covering of coughs, and the
use of hand sanitizer.

Maybe the positive from this current virus infection will be a revision of this policy. Having been on multiple RS tours here is my perspective: When it comes to true medical needs the guides are tops. They know where to access care and how. On several tours we found out afterward that the guide had taken a sick tour member in for care, sometimes in the middle of the night. For communicable respiratory illnesses, well..... Our first tour was my wife and daughter on the 14 day BOE to celebrate her JC graduation. A family of 4 arrived for the tour terribly ill with a cold, were allowed to remain and everyone on the tour got it. My daughter has been wanting to see the Sistine Chapel ever since as she was so ill she can hardly remember it. It’s it fair that a guide can’t stop sick people from joining? I think they should be empowered to exclude them from the tour. However, on one tour, Best of the Adriatic, the guide announced at the welcoming meeting that “if you are wondering who has the cold that will make everyone sick, it’s me”. Well, not everyone got it, but several did including my wife who had 3-4 days of misery. I think this policy needs a refresh. And a sick guide needs to be recused.

Posted by
1870 posts

Thank you for addressing this query. I am not taking a RS Tour in 2020, but for past tours I too would look to the thread referenced from "Laura" from 4/25/19. That said, in light of the current Covid-19 Virus I would also take a look at the March Travel News "Hi from Rick: Travel in Europe in the Age of Coronavirus." He speaks to "Not contributing to the further spread of the virus. If you are showing symptoms (fever and cough) or know you've been exposed to Coronavirus, don't get on the plane." He also recommended following health tips for traveling in Europe per WHO and CDC. It was my understanding that currently the guide will seek medical advice from a provider first before going directly to a facililty in order to prevent the spread of the illness? As far as this current virus is going incubation time is unpredictable. It can be 2 to 14 or more days per the CDC.

I would want clarification of policies and protocol before traveling.
Edited to add: I agree with Alan's information as well.

Posted by
4669 posts

It doesn't negate anything said here, but several NY Times columns this season have asked the following rhetorical question: "What's the best preventative for COVID-19? Answer: Paid Sick Days."

Like the American healthcare and employment system, many people have to make decisions based on economic status or immediate desires. Since most Travel Insurance (let's not get into exclusion of epidemics ... ) doesn't cover non-hospitalizable illness for Cancellation coverage, it is no surprise that the same people who "go to work sniffling and sneezing" are going to get on the bus sniffling and sneezing.

You're right to be indignant, but ... .... have you ever gone into work sick????

Posted by
1160 posts

You're right to be indignant, but ... .... have you ever gone into work sick????

This is a false equivalency as the stakes are not the same.

People pay thousands of dollars to go on a Rick Steves trip. That doesn’t include the additional airfare. People also have a harder time accessing health care in a foreign country (often with additional costs).

So no, it isn’t like work.

This is exactly why we have trip insurance. You get sick, you don’t lose the cost of the tour.

You do NOT have a right to force that risk on others without their consent! Buy trip insurance and self quarantine if you get sick.

I too would like to see a stronger stance from Rick Steves. It’s not right that sick people ruin several others vacations because of fear of missing out.

Posted by
1160 posts

Also, maybe it’s time RS made a full on recommendation for trip insurance in all communication.

That way, if someone gets sick the guide can isolate them or remove them from the trip. RS could say “we warned you....”

Warning of consequences and risk mitigation ahead of time takes the steam out of someone’s complaint of “not fair!” If they are removed from the trip.

Posted by
1838 posts

What Alan shared:

"However, on one tour, Best of the Adriatic, the guide announced at the welcoming meeting that “if you are wondering who has the cold that will make everyone sick, it’s me”. Well, not everyone got it, but several did including my wife who had 3-4 days of misery. I think this policy needs a refresh. And a sick guide needs to be recused."

..........I find that totally unprofessional of the guide and think the Rick Steves/ETBD protocol for the company should be that if a guide/bus driver, etc. is sick, a replacement should be quickly found (flown in from Seattle...whatever). I sincerely hope tour members were given a refund (or significant credit toward a future booking) for that not-so-pleasant experience (seriously). Granted, one can catch a cold out and about anywhere, but for the leader of a tour to knowingly expect to make several of his/her tour-goers sick? Inexcusable. Unprofessional.

Posted by
4669 posts

Cindy, it is always amazing to me how many people have no idea what it is like to be poor. When I wrote my post, I was thinking of professional, knowledge-workers, who tend to come into work sick to "prove" their vital role in the machine!

But vast numbers of Americans will be fired if they miss more than a day or two of their horrible minimum-wage job. It is not a false equivalency. Indeed, you could (I didn't) call having paid for a Rick Steves tour as a "first-world problem", or a "check your privilege" issue. When someone can't pay their rent if they miss a day of work, going into work sick is a necessity.

There is some debate about the exact number, but Federal Reserve surveys suggest that between 12% and 40% of Americans cannot pay for a $400 emergency expense or a car breakdown that they need to get to work.

Posted by
1160 posts

Tim - I have been that poor person. I worked my way through school via service jobs. I especially remember cleaning up vomit when I worked in the hospital. And you’re right - you lose income if you get sick when you are a lower tier worker.

This is not that, as I believe you stated. People that can afford to go on RS tours can also afford trip insurance. They should expect that “stuff happens” and it could be them getting the quarantine. I think we can assume we are speaking of well educated adults.

I should also note that many US cases of covid-19 are from a cruise ship sailing. The Placer county death is a result of that. Again, failure to quarantine by the trip operator.

That’s why I advocate a stronger stance on isolating sick tour members. I really would like to see RS promote trip insurance more in the wake of what is going on. And I believe it is right and good to isolate sick members.

Posted by
16608 posts

Possibly foolishly, I put down a deposit on a February 2021 tour to India last month. It's a Smithsonian tour. The cost of the tour includes medical and evacuation coverage (but no trip-cancellation or trip-interruption coverage). I wasn't thrilled about the inclusion--which must have raised the cost of the tour--because my personal health insurance has good overseas coverage and I was planning to buy an annual evacuation plan with a higher limit. And having partial coverage included in the tour didn't save me one penny on the relatively comprehensive travel insurance I bought (from the same company) on my own, thinking it prudent at my age to have cancellation/interruption protection.

I assume the Smithsonian has looked at its client base (probably not young) and decided this is a smart approach. I don't know whether the medical/evacuation coverage is a feature of all Smithsonian tours.

Posted by
2751 posts

I have taken 18 RS tours, soon to be 19, and have had only one incident where a tour member came sick and was allowed to remain on the tour thus infecting most everyone else on the tour including me who spent 48 hours in bed. When I returned home to Seattle I sent RS a very critical report of the incident and my complain about the guide allowing the sick person who was coughing and sneezing to infect most everyone else. If I were to arrive for a RS tour now to discover an obvious sick tour member, I would ask the guide to remove the person from the group or I would ask to leave the group with a full refund.

Posted by
1000 posts

It's hard to define "sick." Does that include the common cold? Allergies?

One can have a fever with a cold and an allergy can sure look like someone's sick.

If any of you caught a cold on the flight to a RS tour, would you cancel?

Posted by
73 posts

On my last tour there were two with what appeared to be mild cold symptoms. I just kept my distance and practiced good hygiene. They seemed better after a few days.

Now that I’m older, for future bookings I try to focus on going during Spring which is not typically cold/flu season. Just one thing that might help although not the answer to every concern over getting sick especially in light of a novel virus.

Being on a bus for two weeks can expose one significantly, however one could also be exposed on the plane ride as well. One could always choose to travel independently and avoid riding on a tour bus.

Posted by
686 posts

I have taken 4 guided tours in Europe (3 with RS). Someone ended up with an upper respiratory illness on every single tour.

I caught it on the first tour. Those of us that were ill, self decided to sit in the back of the bus to try to prevent more people from catching it. I became wiser on subsequent trips and was able to keep healthy. On two of the trips, tour members were ill enough to require consultations with pharmacists and doctors. On my most recent trip, my traveling companion had a few days of congestion and cough. I was well prepared with otc remedies.

I don't see how in the world, you could kick someone off a tour if they have a cold or other upper respiratory illness. Although this is now a different issue with Covid-19.

And I agree that US employment policies make it necessary for workers to go to work sick. I have never stayed home from work when I had an upper respiratory infection (no fever).

Posted by
2300 posts

There's a big difference between a cold and more serious illnesses. I had a cold on a trip to Italy last fall and did the same walking and activities I would have done without the cold. I wasn't sneezing or coughing a lot, just fatigued. I was still functional, just "under the weather". I would say the difference is whether or not the symptoms are extreme enough to require medical attention. Of course, in the time of coronavirus, any symptoms would be a cause for quarantine.

I always went to work (high school teacher) when I had colds even though I had sick leave. It was just too difficult to come up with lesson plans that a sub could implement. I figured I probably got the cold at school, so the germs were already there. If I had ever had flu, I would have stayed home. The last year I taught, they had to close the school for a day on a holiday weekend because so many students and teachers were sick, and it all started with students(whose identities the administrators knew) coming to school while sick. We were told to send to the office any students who came to our class and appeared to be sick and the administrators would send them home, but it was too late by then.

Posted by
569 posts

We had the same experience on our Ireland tour a few years back. This participant was very obviously ill (cough, sneezing, blowing nose and looked feverish). The problem was that this person continued to sit in a row of the bus mid-front where the greatest number of participants were seated.

I was on a European RS tour a few years ago and a similar situation occurred. Many people on the tour ended up coming down with the same thing. I don't know what RS can do. Even if you buy trip insurance I doubt the policy is going to refund your money and fly you home because you have a cold. Maybe they can at least require the sick person to wear a mask because on a closed bus even if you don't touch any surface they touched, you are spending a few hours on the bus breathing the droplets they expel when they cough or sneeze.

Posted by
1934 posts

This is an interesting conversation. Even though I have never been on an escorted bus tour of Europe, I end up with an upper respiratory illness on every single trip to Europe. I know this. My husband knows this. We accept the fact that I am going to feel like crap on the flight[s] back to my hometown. Two days after we're home, I go to a walk-in clinic for antibiotics and good cough syrup. In a couple of days, I am as good as new.

With that said, the certainty of an upper respiratory illness does not dissuade me from obsessively planning my next trip to Europe. But not in my wildest dreams would I take a trip knowing that I will be the Patient Zero who ruins someone else's trip of a lifetime.

Posted by
1160 posts

Even if you buy trip insurance I doubt the policy is going to refund your money and fly you home because you have a cold.

The trip insurance would take effect if the tour prevented you from participating (part or all). I don’t think this would be for minor colds. But showing up at the beginning of the trip obviously sick should be an issue.

Rick could also have escalating mitigation. Colds sit in the back of the bus and wear masks. Worse spend the day in the hotel room.

RS could certainly put the mitigation explicitly in their terms and conditions. It’s kind of implicit right now (safety of the group). But more explicit wording wouldn’t be a bad thing. I realize that this falls under discernment, tour guides aren’t doctors etc. But the guides should be empowered to force trip participants to act for the health of the group.

Rick has a great reputation. He should be able to handle anyone that is too selfish to self isolate.

Posted by
3214 posts

EP, it's not surprising that people get a bug or an allergic reaction while in an environment they are not used to. One of the reasons my husband doesn't like to travel to Europe is that he's prone to upper respiratory issues and seems to always catch something when he travels anywhere.

I'm not and I don't, but I got a snoot full of something on my trip to Portugal and Spain last summer. Based on what I learned since then, I think I had an allergic bronchial reaction to the jacaranda trees in full bloom in both countries.

It started shortly after we visited the São Jorge Castle in Lisbon where there were some beautiful ones. It waxed and waned for the next 4 weeks. I got better by the last week, but it totally disappeared very shortly after I returned to Tucson.

I never had a fever. I never had any sinus symptoms until almost the end of the Spain tour when I blew my nose one time for about 15 minutes. What I had was a very scary sounding bronchial cough that was controlled by cough drops.

I only missed one day trip on the Portugal tour, but I was able to do laundry that day, so I did that and rested. I missed parts of the first 4 days of the Spain tour, but was a full-time participant in the rest.

As a person who has never really had much in the way of allergies, it was a very annoying surprise. And there were those on the tours who I'm sure were very annoyed, too. So far as I know, no one on either tour "caught" my allergy.

Based on my very limited experience, I now know that allergies can present themselves in ways that closely resemble colds or flu. Next trip I'll be packing some OTC allergy medication just in case.

Posted by
8504 posts

Let me chime in as someone who used to lead tours.

The idea that the tour guide should take everyone's temperature is ridiculous. The guide is not a health professional.

Kicking someone off a tour because they are sick is a very sticky situation. Once again, the guide is not a health professional. It is setting the guide and the tour company up for a serious lawsuit. The first the attorneys would ask is where did I get my medical training.

Colds are inevitable and very common. The most the guide can do is talk to/persuade the guest to perhaps take a day off or sit away from the group if there is room on the bus. But you are traveling in an enclosed tube--like on an airplane--and germs travel. I've gotten colds myself.

If the guide feels a passenger is very sick, she can persuade that passenger to seek medical help. If the doctor deems the passenger to be very sick, the guide would have to discuss the situation with their company to see how to proceed. Of course, if a passenger had the coronavirus, the health departments would intervene.

If someone on your tour is sick, the best thing you can do is not get too close to that person, wash your hands often, and don't touch your face.

And if you are really scared that the area around your seat needs disinfecting every day, bring your own wipes. Then you'll know its done correctly.

Posted by
1043 posts

I believe the advice in the U.K. is that if you think you have the
virus NOT to go to the doctors, pharmacy or hospital. They will
therefore need to retook at that area of policy.

Yes, that is the advice in most countries. If you suspect that you might have cought the virus (or any other contagious disease), stay inside and get instructions via the phone.

Two days after we're home, I go to a walk-in clinic for antibiotics
and good cough syrup. In a couple of days, I am as good as new.

Please don't do that. Most colds and flus are caused by viruses so antibiotics will have no effect on them, and you will most likely get well in a couple of days anyway. So there is no need to contribute to one of the biggest health problems in the world.

Posted by
11417 posts

And if you are really scared that the area around your seat needs
disinfecting every day, bring your own wipes. Then you'll know its
done correctly.

IF you can find those wipes! Had to go to Target early on Friday to pick up a prescription + other odds and ends, and anything labeled "antibacterial" was gone: wipes, sprays, hand sanitizers, hand soap, liquid concentrates... The pharmacy was even out of rubbing alcohol and nearly out of Advil, NyQuil and some other types of OTC cold/flu medicines.

As well, I watched a woman overload a cart with as many gallon bottles of water as it would hold, and the TP aisle was nearly empty. I nabbed a couple remaining packs only because TP was on my shopping list to begin with (I swear!) Circling around to that area again 20-30 minutes later, everything was gone.

At least we haven't gotten to Sydney, Australia's point (yet) of needing a security guard to police TP grabbing?

https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/06/business/coronavirus-global-panic-buying-toilet-paper/index.html

Posted by
6073 posts

Frank II's comments are totally sensible. This is a really tricky situation, and I think too much is being asked of tour guides (the tour members should bear some responsibility too). I don't even know if, say, a tour guide licensed in Turkey (as is the case with the Turkey tours, which are subcontracted to local guides) would follow national (Turkish) guidelines for guides or RS policy. The tours are heavily overrepresented with older people so it seems like someone is sick on every tour (and it depends how you define "sick").

Posted by
8504 posts

IF you can find those wipes! Had to go to Target early on Friday to pick up a prescription + other odds and ends, and anything labeled "antibacterial" was gone: wipes, sprays, hand sanitizers, hand soap, liquid concentrates... The pharmacy was even out of rubbing alcohol and nearly out of Advil, NyQuil and some other types of OTC cold/flu medicines

I have to fly. No choice. So I decided to get some travel size wipes to take with me for the plane, hotel room, etc. Only none were found.

On Wednesday night, I spent an hour on the internet searching for them. None online. I found one store about 20 miles away that was supposed to have them. And luckily a Walgreens about 3 miles away was supposed to have 10+. It was already closed.. I got there the following morning before it opened. No wipes. They had been shipped overnight and were in one of the 70 pallets needed to be unloaded. I waited 30 minutes but they found them. They let me have five. For all other wipes, bottles of alcohol, cleansers, etc. they were limiting two of each.

Why are people hoarding water? Panic and that's what they are told to do in other emergencies.

Why are people hoarding toilet paper? There was a rumor that toilet paper comes from China and we would run out? We won't run out there is plenty. It's even worse in Japan.

While I'm usually not one to freak out over things, I have added disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer, hand soap sheets and a handkerchief (to use as a towel) to my packing list.

Posted by
119 posts

I'd like to weigh in in defense of people with colds. Sure, it's nice to imagine anyone who is sick staying home. But realistically, if someone has paid thousands of dollars for a tour, they are not going to cancel for a cold. The airlines aren't going to give you free cancellation, and trip insurance isn't going to pay unless you are seriously sick with a doctor's note. Of course, those with colds should be careful and do their best to not pass them. But please give considerate people with minor illnesses a break. I consider catching a cold to be part of the risk of travel; I try to minimize that risk, but germs are everywhere and I don't expect RS to institute policies to perfectly protect me from them.

Posted by
2388 posts

I agree with Michelle. Unlikely trip cancellation insurance would cover you if you canceled due to a cold. I wouldn't. I would do what I could to reduce my symptoms and protect other people. I travel with masks in case I do get a cold or so I can pass one out to someone who has a cold. As much as I wouldn't want a cold or other complication, that's life. Travel is a risk.

On the other hand, I think travel now is just aggravating the problem and spreading the disease. I wonder if the anti-cold people are still traveling. Food for thought. Nothing is black and white, except my clothes. ;p

Posted by
140 posts

This is why I will never go on group tours. Too many people would rather expose others to their infections than lose a few thousand dollars.

Posted by
28 posts

I understand all the information shared and while a cold may not be serious for young, healthy people it can lead to serious consequences in healthy, able-to-travel older people. My concern is that it should not be up to “the consideration of sick tour members” to self segregate. There should be a policy by the organization of how to handle this situation. We had very good tour guides. They did not suggest that sick tour members be given a full seat in the back of the bus and then request them to move there which, to me, would be desirable to reduce the possibility of spreading the infection. To move them to the back of the bus is not to discriminate against them, but, rather, to protect the driver and tour leader from illness. It would also be easy to set a policy of hand sanitizer near both doors of the bus as well as tissues for those who have run out of their own supply. It is also easy to have a policy of wiping down seat handles, door handles, and railings at each long stop as well as at the end of the day. All of these are easy to institute, cost effective, and non-discrimatory. A tour is much more enjoyable when all of those participants who have each spent a lot of money are well and able to enjoy the tour.

Posted by
153 posts

!? My last several trips to Europe have been solo. But whether at home with your usual routines, or away tourless you can be exposed to-whatever. You can still get sneezed on waiting at Costco to buy extra emergency hand sanitizer, at a wedding or while waiting in line in Barcelona to see a sight/site. I understand on tours there is the extended and enclosed transit togetherness that will exacerbate being exposed to someone else's illness.
Now enormous cruise ships, on the other hand- even if offered a free trip I would never go!

Posted by
1160 posts

But please give considerate people with minor illnesses a break.

People who do not self isolate are not considerate!!!

The real issue is forcing your choices on others without their consent. That’s what your members do when they choose not to self isolate. It’s pure narcissism.

Everyone paid money for the trip. You don’t have a right to wreck it for others.

I’d really like to see the tour guides being more forceful on people that don’t self isolate.

The reality is that people can get biased in their decision making when it comes down to big bucks. They lose focus. They will make decisions that benefit themselves and harm others. That’s where a solid external voice of reason (a tour guide) can realign the situation to one that is fair to all.

Posted by
2300 posts

Frank II, we are not hoarding water, but I keep 6 gallons in our extra freezer/refrigerator all the time in case water becomes contaminated by a natural disaster. I did recently buy one pack of those bad-for-the-environment water bottles. It's tornado season-we could lose power etc and be in quarantine for coronavirus at the same time. If other parts of the country are ravaged with coronavirus, no one will be sending help to tornado victims.

Posted by
8504 posts

I used to live in earthquake country ( California) and kept water on hand because the water supply could be cut off. But to start hoarding it because of the virus is questionable. But too each his own.

Asking a tour guide (who is not a health professional) to decide who or who doesn't get on the bus opens up the tour company to numerous lawsuits.

And lets say a tour company says that when you get to the tour, if the guide thinks you are sick, you can't get on. How many people would risk thousands of dollars to leave it up to an untrained professional? Are you telling me that if you spent thousands of dollars on a tour, and had a cold, you would just say, "Oh well, it's only a few thousand dollars." If you can, then you are richer than a lot of people.

Posted by
6073 posts

@Frank II - you make too much sense. Given your vantage point as a tour guide/director, could you shed some light as to whether it's even possible to come up with a stringent, allegedly fair and clear policy for how to handle "sick" tour members? In other words, can the OP's request be accomplished? I can't see it...since it would rest on a non-medical professional to interpret in real-time what "sick" is on a continuum and what strategy to deploy in a medically defensible way that doesn't over- or under-do it. I don't think a tour guide would have credibility to make nuanced distinctions and, in the end, someone would be very unhappy (it seems like an impossible situation). I don't know what the right answer is.

Posted by
1160 posts

Frank and Agnes - you are creating a logical fallacy by making this an either/or situation. Either you get on the bus or not.

That’s not how it works and you know it.

You can ask people to sit at the back, wear masks, wash their hands. If they are sick enough to go to the doctor then they probably shouldn’t be on the bus that day - they should be resting in their room.

A lawsuit threat is a bit much. Putting terms in the contract helps diffuse the situation. Empowering trained employees to make decisions creates better outcomes.

The reality is that people know if they are sick or not. A person with allergies knows it. The symptoms are not exactly the same.

Responses are rarely binary. It is not black and white as you are making it.

Posted by
8504 posts

I'll give you an example. Where I am, it's the beginning of pollen season. So when I'm out and about, I am sniffling and sneezing. When I am inside I am fine. If I go on a tour and my allergies are acting up, should I be denied boarding because the guide won't believe it's just allergies?

We all go out in public. We are all with other people. If you are truly afraid to be on a tour, an airplane, the subway, a store, because you are afraid of getting sick, stay home. If you want hand sanitizer, bring it.

You can't rely on a tour company to do everything for you. Part of joining a group tour is making a personal decision if you should go or not.

I have four flights in two weeks within the U.S. that I must take. I'm going and will do what I can to minimize my getting sick. In the middle of April, I leave for an extended stay in Europe. My trip is constantly changing and I'm steering away from areas with large breakouts. But where the breakouts are located may change at any time. If I get sick, I will do what is suggested of me.

The only thing a tour company can do is make it easy for a passenger to cancel or transfer to another tour at the last minute. This would be very costly to the tour company and would mean the costs of tours would go up.

Posted by
2282 posts

Asking a tour guide (who is not a health professional) to decide who or who doesn't get on the bus opens up the tour company to numerous lawsuits.

I’m with Cindy. This is a fallacy. If a company makes a policy, if the policy is criteria based, it empowers it’s employees to enforce it, then it’s done. If companies always acted based on perceived litigation risk nothing would get done.

Posted by
6073 posts

and you know it.

Excuse me? I said specifically "I don't know what the right answer is" (and I have no dog in this fight as I travel independently 99% of the time). I'm seeking more insight from someone who was a tour guide/director as to the challenges of ascertaining who is sick and what to do about it (and I guess it also really depends how far along on the trip we're talking about - initial entry? middle? end? does it matter?). The only thing that Frank II said that leaves me with a gap is that the tour guide would radio in to the company for further guidance if needed....but what is that guidance, and what criteria is it based on using the tour guide's on-the-ground observations? And would it be published anywhere and made transparent to all passengers beforehand? That seems to be what the OP is getting at. I'd hate to be a tour guide, that I know for sure.

Maybe this is a matter of resetting the incentive structure. As it stands, a sick tour member has no incentive to leave the tour ( unless very temporarily) because of huge sunk costs. The tour guide also has no incentive to banish someone. What if sick tour members who chose to leave the tour could get their money back based on the number of days they could not complete the tour as a reward of sorts and a motivation factor? Or be allowed credit for a future tour? Or something like that which would incentivize good behavior...I haven't thought this through completely yet but there have to be some ways to change the incentive structure to do the right thing.

Posted by
896 posts

A policy to cover a cough with a mask is not too much to ask if a person is ill. A person knows when they have a cold. Wearing a surgical mask would require that individual to sit behind everyone, as the cough would escape backward out the sides a bit.

While in Egypt, most of us came down with an enteric. One right after another. Boy oh boy! Not fun!

Take OTC meds with to help with the suffering!

Posted by
8504 posts

If you want to deny people boarding on a tour, what is the threshold---fever, sweating, coughing, snifflinng? What if they are not serious enough to go to the doctor? Force them to go even if it's just a cold or allergies? Who decides that? The guide? Do you insist that all tours have a medical professional on board to assess the situation?

If someone is sick enough to go to the doctor, and the doctor says they are contagious and need to rest, then that allows the tour company to take action. But don't ask me as a tour guide to decide if someone with the sniffles and is sneezing has a cold, allergies or something else? Maybe it's a cough due to smoking? How am I supposed to tell the difference between that and bronchitis?

I think people are panicing over this virus. Six months ago we would not be having this conversation.

If you are really scared, don't go. With this virus, a person carrying it could seem absolutely fine and still be contagious. They could have caught it on the flight over but still be contagious even though they have no symptoms. So we scrub the bus down every day, we sit everyone at least six feet apart--which would mean a lot less than 28 peopleand the tour company would lose money--and cancel all group activities and meals unless we can find a place that will allow everyone again to sit at least six feet apart.

Perhaps they should operate like sporting events--run the tour but have no passengers. They'lll use a webcam so you won't miss anything.

Posted by
1160 posts

I think people are panicing over this virus. Six months ago we would not be having this conversation.

Actually, we had this conversation last April per the referenced thread.

I’ve had two expensive trips impacted by someone that didn’t wear a mask, didn’t wash their hands, and stood in the middle of all. They made NO attempt to modify their behavior due to their illness because they “didn’t want to miss out”. So they gave their illness to others who had to miss out. To this day I think of them as selfish jerks.

This isn’t an either/or operation. People don’t have to get banned from the bus if they self isolate. That does mean sitting in the back of the bus, wearing a mask, washing their hands, and standing back from the group during talks. And no touching shared food!

Posted by
6040 posts

Asking a tour guide (who is not a health professional) to decide who or who doesn't get on the bus opens up the tour company to numerous lawsuits.
I’m with Cindy. This is a fallacy. If a company makes a policy, if the policy is criteria based, it empowers it’s employees to enforce it, then it’s done. If companies always acted based on perceived litigation risk nothing would get done.

Well, why limit this type of policy to guided tours ( RS or any other). The logical extension is to let every 'gatekeeper' the power to deny entry to every type of conveyance, attraction or site, by simply posting a notice they reserve the right to do so by their self described criteria. You show up and 'look sick' out you stay. Oh, a 'refund'? Sorry you bought the non refundable ticket that cost only 25% of the refundable type.

Once this becomes a widespread practice no insurer will offer a coverage policy. ( at least not at a premium that is not nearly the cost of the potential payout)

Posted by
5817 posts

I await the news stories of people being dragged from tour buses moneybelts akimbo!
It really doesn't take much for a mob to develop does it?
Asthmatic? Looking a bit pastey? Hot flush? Off the bus with you!

You sign up for a group tour with all the benefits they provide, you are also signing up for the downsides.

Common sense precautions should apply but the idea of dumping people off a tour because other travellers have decided they are Ill is ridiculous. And good luck trying to get a refund from your travel insurance because of a cold.

Posted by
28 posts

I was actually seeking information on RS Tours policy. I think that question should have been directed to them directly, not on the tour forum. Keep in mind that RS Tours does have policies about removing people from tours: disruptive, non-cooperative, and their policy of “no grumps allowed”. The problem behavior of sick individuals could easily be covered by a policy statement from the RS Tours office, provided to each participant, and carried out by the tour leader. It is then not arbitrarily applied; it is policy.Problem solved. Bus sanitation could also be solved with a policy statement and perhaps in the contract with the bus company. All the busses we’ve been on are clean to the eye; the bus drivers take pride in their busses. And remember all those people taking temperatures in airports and cruise line disembarkations are not health professionals. Anyone can accurately use a forehead thermometer if they are provided directions and the number that indicates fever. I will not be checking this forum topic again.

Posted by
4867 posts

Okieandy, I think this was a good topic to bring up here. Even if there is disagreement, its worth having the discussion.

Posted by
631 posts

Hello,

As it relates to this discussion, please see our Coronavirus Health Tips that we released last week... particularly the latter half regarding the standards that our guides will use on our bus tours.

https://www.ricksteves.com/watch-read-listen/read/travel-news/march-2020/coronavirus-health-tips

We've also added a "What if someone on my tour gets sick..." question in our Coronavirus FAQ for Tour Members:

https://www.ricksteves.com/tours/coronavirus-faq

On the separate subject of trip insurance that was brought up, it was discussed as if Rick Steves does not make this available to tour members. We provide information about trip insurance for all tour members — and it's not a hard sell. It can be useful in some situations. However, it should also be known that trip insurance is largely not covering coronavirus-related issues, especially if it was purchased before late January (when knowledge of the virus as a risk to travel became widely known).

To avoid continuing some of the side discussions that may not be helpful, we're closing this thread. Thanks, everyone.