Updated: 22nd September 2020
As a small, family-run company we have faced numerous challenges since COVID-19 began to impact on our lives back in early March.
Our primary concern throughout has been to ensure the safety of our guests and to act as quickly as possible to make new arrangements for those impacted, or to provide refunds where necessary. Our team has worked exceptionally hard to ensure that this happened with the minimum of fuss.
Our local partners, most of whom we have worked with for many years, have been outstanding. They have worked with our Operations Team to accommodate and assist our guests as events unfolded during their holiday and also when rearranging bookings to alternative dates. Together we have been able to secure some high-value benefits for those guests who could not travel and have since postponed.
Future bookings and holidays
We are constantly monitoring the advice provided by the UK Government and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as well as the guidance provided by the governments in our destinations.
As it stands in late September, the FCO is currently allowing UK residents to travel to Finland, Norway, Sweden and Iceland without mandatory quarantine upon return.
The Finnish Government has not yet removed the restrictions on arrival from the UK but, we have been advised by Visit Finland that this is being reviewed by their government at the moment to find the safest solution for all.
The Norwegian government are allowing countries with an infection rate of 20 people per 100,000 to travel without mandatory quarantine.
Sweden is also allowing arrivals from the UK and on the 12th September the Foreign Office (FCO) removed their advice against travel to Sweden and confirmed self-isolation on return to the UK is also not necessary.
Iceland is allowing arrivals from the UK but there is mandatory testing and quarantine upon arrival.
It is important to keep in mind that most of our holidays are operated in very remote destinations many of which have had little, or no, cases of COVID in recent months, or at all. The statistics for each country are rarely broken down into region but if you are interested in accurate statistics relating to the area you are considering or booked to travel to, then please get in touch and we will be happy to supply the information.
All our local partners are constantly reviewing their procedures to provide additional peace of mind to guests. If you have any questions regarding this, then please do not hesitate to get in touch.
If you are due to depart before the 30th November 2020:
We are constantly monitoring all local and regional regulations in destinations where we have guests booked to travel. We will be in contact with the lead passenger on each booking as and when we have new information. We have also reduced the balance due dates until we can make a final decision regarding travel at 21 days prior. If you have any questions at all then please feel free to get in touch with our Customer Service team. If not, then sit tight and we will be in touch as soon as we have an update for you.
If your trip departs on or after 1st December 2020:
All holidays departing after 1st December are expected to run as originally planned.
We continue to monitor local conditions, the FCO and all relevant governmental advice and will review all trips as required. We will update guests a minimum of 30 days prior to departure and we expect the final decision regarding travel will be made at 21 days prior to departure which is in keeping with industry guidelines.
Frequently asked questions
I made a booking with you, but I no longer wish to travel, what are my options?
This will depend on when your booking was made and the specific terms relating to your holiday and flight booking if applicable. The Artisan Travel Company are happy to postpone all transferable and flexible elements of your trip to either an alternative holiday or departure date without charging an administrative fee.
For any non-transferable elements, we will do our best to minimise these costs but unfortunately, these decisions are normally out of our hands. Naturally, we promise to do our best to negotiate on your behalf.
Another option would be to transfer your booking to another passenger (subject to terms and conditions and introduced by yourselves) and we can normally facilitate this until 10 days prior to departure.
Finally, depending on the reason you no longer wish to travel, you may be able to claim your travel insurance.
What happens if my trip is cancelled?
If you are booked onto a trip which we must cancel, then we will get in touch with you immediately. If we are forced to cancel your holiday, then there will be several options available to you:
1 – Consider an alternative destination
As we have such a fantastic network of partners across Scandinavia, we will do everything we can to propose alternative holiday options for you to consider. If you do decide to go for one of these options we will transfer the money you have already paid us to your new booking and, if it is cheaper, refund you the difference. If it is more expensive you will need to top this amount up to meet the new price.
2 – Postpone your trip at the same price as you paid this year
If you have your heart set on the holiday you have chosen, then we don’t see why you should have to pay more to enjoy your long-awaited adventure. As a rough estimate, we normally allow between a 5%-10% increase in the cost of our holidays year on year to allow for increases from local partners, airlines (inc. taxes and duties) and currency fluctuation. If you postpone your holiday, then we will guarantee to hold the same price you were initially quoted for the corresponding dates the following winter season. If you would like to change your dates then we will honour the corresponding price from the season you booked.
3 – Accept a Refund Credit Note to financially protect your money while you choose an alternative adventure
We fully appreciate that when Refund Credit Notes (RCN) were initially launched by ABTA their purpose was a little ambiguous and they were not particularly well understood amid lockdown. There was also a frustrating lack of public support from the Civil Aviation Authority to confirm that RCNs were fully financially protected. The CAA finally confirmed that they are in July (you can read more about this here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/boost-to-passengers-as-government-bolsters-atol-scheme).
Different companies have used RCNs in different ways.
In some cases, we have requested that guests consider accepting a credit note as a method of temporarily ensuring that their money remains fully protected whilst allowing us a chance to reclaim cash we had already paid to airlines and local partners. We have worked very hard to get the balance right between both our guests' needs and our long term (predominately small, independent) local partners viability.
As this situation has been completely out of everyone’s control, we have asked some guests, where they are able, to be patient and allow these businesses a small amount of leniency to return the money we have paid them in advance. Airlines have been widely reported as being excruciatingly slow to issue refunds and we are still waiting for many payments from as far back as March.
Despite this, we have refunded all guests who initially accepted a credit refund note from holidays affected in March and April. This was despite their RCNs not expiring until January 2021. If you choose to rebook any of our holidays across The Artisan Travel Company then you would be entitled to a 10% discount from that holiday and 5% off any future holidays you then go on to book with us (not to be used in conjunction with any other offer).
4 – A full refund
If you are not able to accept an RCN under the circumstances outlined above, then we do understand. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your cancellation we may request that you contact your Travel Insurance company in the first instance. Should that claim be unsuccessful then we will refund you in full. We will advise you of the relevant processing times at that stage.
My holiday is booked for a destination that still has a travel ban. When will I know if it going ahead or not?
In keeping with industry guidelines, we are constantly monitoring the status of your holiday. These situations are obviously very dynamic, but we will contact you at the latest, 21 days prior to departure to discuss your options at that stage. You are more than welcome to check in on the status of your trip prior to this but it will be at this point we make a final decision.
What happens if the travel advice changes for my destination during my holiday?
This would depend on how the advice changed, if the FCO followed the pattern they have predominantly used during the summer months then they have not advised guests currently on holiday to return home. If this was the case, then we would update any guests who are abroad of any developments or changes and allow you to continue your long-anticipated holiday.
If either the UK or local government does advise guests to return home immediately then we would repatriate all guests as quickly and efficiently as possible.
What happens if there is a quarantine on my return to the UK?
In this instance if there was no advice against travelling from either the UK or your destination's local government then we would operate the holiday as originally planned. As a quarantine upon your return to the UK would be out of both our own and our local partners' control and it does not impact on our ability to provide the holiday then standard cancellation terms would apply. If this situation arose and you would like to change your travel dates to postpone to a different time then we will do everything we can to assist this and minimise any non-recoverable costs.
What happens if the flights I have booked are cancelled?
If you have booked your own flights and they are cancelled then, first of all, we suggest contacting the airline to confirm the options available to you – these may be alternative flights, a voucher or full refund (this is likely to depend on the type of ticket you purchased so we recommend reading the small print very carefully).
Once you are aware of all of your options give our Customer Service Team a call and we will do what we can to try and assist you sourcing alternative flights if appropriate, rearranging your travel dates or doing our best to negotiate a suitable alternative with our local partners. Again, we will not charge any administrative fee in this instance.
I’m travelling from another country outside of the UK – what happens if I’m not able to travel?
The Artisan Travel Company is based in the UK and we take all of our guidance from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and other UK government bodies. Depending on if you have booked a flight inclusive or land only package with us your contract with us either starts at your UK departure airport (if we have booked your flights) or if you have booked a land only package then this begins at the local airport in Scandinavia where you will be picked up by our transport.
If there are no national UK border restrictions preventing us from operating the holiday (i.e. unless the FCDO advise against all but essential travel to Finland, Sweden, Iceland or Norway) OR the destination government prevent all arrivals from the UK then we will continue to run the holiday as planned. For anyone who is prevented from joining the trip as planned due to medical reasons, local lockdowns, or government advice changing from a country other than the UK or the destination of your holiday booked with us then this cancellation by you would be dealt with as per our booking terms and conditions and any loss would need to be reclaimed from your travel insurance policy so please check the wording carefully and ensure you are satisfied with the level of cover.
What type of travel insurance should I look for?
Travel insurance has always been a pre-requisite for travelling with us, investing in a comprehensive travel insurance policy should be the first thing you do after booking a holiday with us.
COVID-19 has really highlighted the importance of a comprehensive travel insurance policy. ABTA has some useful questions and answers to scenarios which should be covered by your travel insurance. These include any problems before you go such as local lockdowns or if you or anyone you are due to travel with is diagnosed with COVID shortly before departure. You can find these here: https://www.abta.com/news/coronavirus-outbreak
If you, or any member of your party, are diagnosed with COVID whilst you are on holiday then you need to be satisfied that your insurance policy will cover any medical costs incurred including testing, self-isolation and treatment. We would also suggest choosing a policy which would allow you to claim for any elements of the holiday you were not able to take part in.
We are in the process of researching several different travel insurance policies and hope to be able to recommend one to our guests soon, until then please be thorough in your research to ensure you are protected against any potential issues.
Health and Safety on holiday
What steps are your local partners taking to keep me safe on holiday?
We have been so impressed with our local partners’ pro-active approach to guest safety in the destination. Many of the small companies based in Lapland have begun working together to share best practices. They have been led by the Head of Epidemiology at Rovaniemi Hospital who is providing specific advice for those providing specialised winter activities including clothing and equipment hire etc.
We also have a range of publications and detailed information from each local partner and airline. Please just ask our Customer Service Team if you would like more specific information for your destination.
I am a solo traveller; will I have to share a room?
For each of our holidays, there is a single supplement for those wishing to have their own room. On some of our holidays which include a night in wilderness accommodation (i.e. an overnight husky safari) then the whole group will share dormitory-style accommodation. Single rooms are not possible on this type of holiday, but they are available in all other accommodations. Our team of travel experts will be able to discuss this with you at the time of booking.
What happens if myself or a member of my party start to show COVID symptoms during my holiday?
If you become unwell during your holiday then it is vital that you alert a member of staff in the destination (either a local representative if your destination has one or the reception team) as quickly as possible, ideally by phone. You must remain in your hotel room. The local team will then ensure you receive medical attention as soon as possible.
If you are showing COVID-19 symptoms, then they will arrange a test and you will be asked to quarantine until the results are reported. During that time the local team will do everything they can to keep you comfortable and arrange that meals and other necessities are brought to your room but any additional costs will have to be covered by your own travel insurance.
Further advice for UK travellers
Though we endeavour to inform our customers of any significant changes, this is a fast-moving situation and therefore we also ask for our travellers to keep up-to-date with the relevant travel advice.
UK health authorities www.gov.uk/guidance/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-information-for-the-public
FCO travel advice www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice
The National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) TravelHealthPro website www.travelhealthpro.org.uk/countries
The NHS website www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19