COVID-19 disrupted the nature of the routinely organized life into a shell where avoiding people is the solution to the problem. The virus has more problems than the solutions for mankind. Almost after 3 months of WHO declaring, COVID-19 as a global pandemic, people are coming to terms that, there is life after virus too. Now we have to adopt a new normal and to live amidst this disease. Now that, it has come as a game-changer, safety and health have become the topmost priority of people. Therefore, if people have to travel amidst the current pandemic they will have to go through multiple processes to ensure they are safe to travel. Likewise, it goes the same for the place, people are traveling too.
With recent developments, lots of crowd generating places have introduced protocols to run its cooperation in the middle of the pandemic. Fortunately, in some places, we are hearing that, they have started to run schools, cinema halls, airports, malls, and off course traveling. With this in regard, the Nepal Tourism Board in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture, Tourism, and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) has introduced an operational guideline with health protocol for the tourism sector.
In consultation with various stakeholders in the tourism sector, this guideline was introduced. CEO of the Nepal Tourism Board led a group of experts as well as stakeholders and prepared these guidelines. To prepare these guidelines, they collaborated for more than three months. In these guidelines, they have introduced protocols for different sectors related to Hospitality and tourism businesses.
In this articles, we are highlighting, the protocols for tours and adventure activities as mentioned in the operational guideline.
The Directives issued by the Health and Population Ministry, High-Level COVID-19 committee, and NTB HHS Protocols to be strictly followed during activities.
These directives and protocols are for the operation of tours and adventure activities, keeping in mind the SAFETY of teams, travelers, and community.
NOTE: Due to the contact intensive nature of Aqua and Aerial (rafting, kayak, canyoning, bungee jumping, paragliding, and others) activities. It is recommended that these activities are offered only to:
- Same group
- People who are traveling together
For the people in the administration of tours and Adventure activities.
All teams working in the conduction of tours and adventure activities should go through a training that includes:
- Prevention of Infection, Breaking the Chain and Hygiene Protocols
- Physical Distancing Protocols
- Emergency Protocols
- Dynamic Problem Solving
- Updated First Aid training.
- An up to date training record should be kept by all members of the team as proof of the training.
- The activity leader should also be trained in passing on the salient points of the training to other members of the team during the course of the operation.
- All activity leaders have to maintain a Daily Leader Log according in a pre-established format to record itinerary and points of contact to facilitate contact tracing should the need arise. This could include daily temperature checks and self-administered symptom form by the clients.
- Daily briefings to include hygiene, physical distancing, and emergency protocols. Daily communication when possible with the office to report and get updates on the overall situation, so the itinerary can be followed and adapted according to the situation.
- First Aid Kits with every Leader containing extra masks, disposable gloves soap, and/or sanitizers. Leaders should be mindful of communities where the tours and adventure activities are happening and minimize the chances of contamination.
- Activity leaders should work alongside other leaders in a destination to ensure minimal risk of contamination, and maintain a high level of hygiene.
Protocols for Travelers
- Travelers will have to bring their masks with them to use while traveling.
- Travelers should inform the guide/leader of any symptoms of any sort of illness.
- Travelers should have travel medical insurance that includes helicopter evacuation and the travel medical company would ensure that clients would be medevac (medical evacuation) out in case of any illness.
- Travelers shall agree to follow the company’s health and safety protocol in case of any suspected case of virus transmission or illness within the group or the area.
- Travelers shall be requested to carry their sanitizer with them in their packs at all times (they would bring their own on activity with them).
Protocols for touring activities
- The people on the tour should maintain the distance on the tour with others and locals communities.
- Initially, tours will adhere to lunch box system. And sooner or later, use bunch of restaurants certify for their cleanliness levels and adherence to the restaurants protocols.
- The tour leader should guarantee the group comprehends he virus protocols of hygiene and physical distancing.
- Tour leader should always have an up to date first aid kit and should be trained to know how it is used.
- Timely, tour leader should contact the office to report the ground situations.
- Tour Leader is trained regularly on the Emergency Protocol in the event that there is an episode (within the group or in the zone where the group is visiting).
Protocols for Trekking, Hiking, Mountaineering
- All Trekkers and Mountaineers as with GT and Mountaineering gathering, FITs should trek with approved offices/authorized guides for guarantee security.
- Mountaineering/GT/FITs should not make any changes to approved trekking itinerary.
- Group size ought to be 2-15 individuals in particular.
- The Tour Leader must report the health status of the individuals in all the health check posts that lie in the trekking trail, likewise have health checkup done. These reports are to be submitted routinely to the Agency for future contact following.
- The group will obligatory Health check -up all the trekkers in Health check posts on the trekking route.
- Gathering Health Check records including when report ought to be put together by Agency to the Department of Tourism (DOT).
- A clearance letter confirming responsible disposal/ return of non-biodegradable garbage has to be obtained from the local government body or authorized entity in the trekking area.
Protocols for Teahouse (Lodge) treks
- All clients shall have single rooms, (wherever available) except for couples or people who have traveled to Nepal together.
- All groups shall maintain social and physical distancing as per protocol from other trekking groups, lodge staff, and locals.
- Follow protocol guidelines for shopping, interactions with locals as on camping treks.
- The guide shall advise clients to the only shop from local shops where safety guidelines are being adhered to.
- The guide shall advise clients to strictly follow health protocols in lodges (coughing into elbow or shirt, wearing masks, not handing common condiment containers without clean hands, not touching door handles without clean hands, not using any common towel, etc.).
- The guide shall ensure that the lodge owners and staff are maintaining their property as per established guidelines.
- The guide shall make sure that the kitchen facilities and rooms in the lodges are clean, sanitized, and sterilized.
Protocols for Transportation
This is a standard protocol for anybody working in the transportation management: be it Hotels, Tour Operators or exclusively vehicle service providers. Acknowledge that pandemic arranging isn’t an independent undertaking, however ought to be coordinated with existing emergency the board structure and systems so as to be compelling. It is essential to include specialty units rightfully into this organizing. Vehicle administrators should follow the instructions to keep themselves and their travelers secured:
- Vehicle administrators should screen the staff/visitor well being more intently than usual for COVID-19 side effects, for example, fever, and hack, sore throat or brevity of breath.
Rules for different types of vehicles:
- Car: 1 or 2 people + driver
- 12 seater Jumbo: 3 people + driver
- 20-22 seater coaster: 10 people + driver
- 35 seater Bus: 15 people + driver
Practice healthy personal hygiene.
Practice solid individual cleanliness.
- Wash hands regularly with soap and water for in any event 20 seconds. Utilize an alcohol based hand sanitizer if hand wash liquids or soaps and water are not accessible. Use your sleeves or tissues to cover your sneeze and cough and avoid using hands. Promptly toss out tissues and wash your hands a while later. Do not touch your face your face or eyes until you have washed your hands. Keep hand sanitizer and tissue available for your passengers.
- Avoid shaking hands. Rather, wave or Namaste. On the off chance that you do truly interface with a client, make sure to wash hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer after each association.
Clean and sanitize your vehicle routinely. When cleaning and purifying:
- While cleaning pay deep attention to the objects and outer surface of the vehicles that are contacted frequently by travelers. For instance, doors, seat pads, windows, clasps, handles and safety belts. Likewise wipe down surfaces that you regularly contact, for example, the directing wheel, radio catches, turn markers and cup holders.
- Use disinfectant like (Clorox, peroxide and alcohol based disinfectant) that are suitable for the surface. While cleaning keep doors and windows open.
- While cleaning use dispensable gloves and throw them out in the rubbish. Toss gloves in the rubbish after use and wash hands quickly with cleanser and water or utilize a liquor based hand sanitizer. Do not use the vehicle until the vehicle is completely dried.
Maintain social (physical) distancing while transporting customers.
Keeping yourself and your passengers safe:
- Companies will have to relay the health and hygiene information to the travelers before the excursion.
- Keep relative amount of personal space. There should be at least 6 feet (this is quite difficult in a small vehicle) distance between you and others wherever it is possible.
- If the vehicle contains less passengers, then ask the passengers to sit in the back creating distance between other passengers.
- On the off chance that vehicle have partition, close those before getting travelers. However if the vehicle don’t have, at that point at that point can set up a reasonable plastic obstruction between the front and back of the vehicle. (Note: partition ought not to impact the rear view mirror visibility).
- Transport just those travelers who are in a similar gathering/Group. Gathering rides (otherwise called “shared” or “pooled” rides) ought to be maintained a strategic distance from at all expense.
- Employees and Employers are required to wear a face mask at work in the event that they have direct contact with clients or others.
- Staff must wear a face mask or shield while moving travelers, or when in any case within 6 feet (a difficult proposition in little vehicles) of clients or others. A face covering whether it is mask, face shield or any type of clothing (scarfs or bandanna) that completely and securely covers your mouth and nose. Employers must give face masks to workers at employer’s expense.
- Whenever possible, set ventilation to non-recycled air mode in both the driver and traveler compartment. If this is not possible then open windows.
- Provide tissues and hand sanitizers for the passengers.
- Maintain logbook of all fuel stops, fix and maintenance place for future contact following.
- High levels of cleanliness in all parts of terminals, rest territories (for example along the motorways), covered parking facilities, fueling and charging stations, ought to be guaranteed.
- Safe working practices ought to be presented, including, for instance, back entryway boarding and the utilization of windows for ventilation however much as could reasonably be expected rather than cooling.
- Additionally, seating ought to be improved to the degree doable (for example families can sit together, while people not traveling together ought to be isolated).
Protocols for Aqua (Water) / Aerial/ Other Activities
Since Aqua and Aerial activities contact intensive, additional protocols are being considered for maximizing safety during these activities.
AERIAL/ OTHERS: To follow the same protocols as in Adventure activities for hygiene and safety issues.
For Rafting/ Canoeing/ Kayaking/ Canyoning
- Make available hand sanitizer, mask, and glove for staff and clients
- Code of conduct to be displayed prominently for guest assurance
- Rafts, Oars, Life Jackets, Vehicle, Kitchen, Dining, Utensils, Tent, mattress, sleeping bags, etc. should be sanitized as per above protocols
- Wear Masks, and Gloves, use Sanitizer and other Protective accessories
- Wash hands after every contact with any objects or surface or as per need
- Stay at a minimum of 1-meter distance from each other
On the Raft:
- Each client shall have a minimum of 1 m distance inside the raft.
- Family members shall maintain 1 m minimum distance and as per raft capacity
To follow the same protocol as in trekking/ camping
- To maintain 1 m space when queuing up for booking service, boarding the vehicle, meals, boarding the raft, in all areas where service is being received and throughout the entire journey
- Group distancing shall be determined according to the nature of the clients like FITs, Group, Family and domestic tourists
- Ensure crowding is avoided and distancing is maintained in all public places.
- Limited contact with communities when camping.
- Ensure proper management of Waste/Garbage Materials at the campsite.
- Health checkup is compulsory for all the participants at the beginning and the end of the activities in nearby Health check post. Its records should be maintained and submitted to DOT.
Recommended Green Tip for Adventure Activities
Leave no trace, only footprints; bring out what you bring in, burn paper but not plastic, leave the campsite the way you found it, or better. Work with each national park or trekking region to have a system like Upper Mustang. Camping groups register at the check posts with a list of all cans and bottles brought into the park and have to bring the same number back out when they leave.
Involve the staff and trekkers in cleaning up the trails and campsites as they travel through the region. Trekking in these remote mountain regions is a privilege which should be respected, and encouraging the trekkers to get involved will create a sense of responsibility, in a positive way!
- Decant as much as possible from glass and plastic into reusable plastic containers.
- Carry out all cans, bottles and plastic. (You can dump them into dust bin wherever available)
- Separate trash in the dining and kitchen tents, burn dry paper trash but not plastics, bury organic waste (If you are camping).
- Make sure the toilet tents have a deep hole and is completely covered when finished!(If you are camping)
- Toilet tents should be away from all springs and water sources, and not in the middle of any flat, potential tent spot. (If you are camping)
- Make sure the trekkers are also bringing out their trash, and not putting things like used batteries into the common trash container.
- Encourage staff and trekkers to clean up campsites. We sometimes have a purifying puja – burning juniper – after we’ve cleaned a campsite so that the staff feels proud of what they have achieved.
- Buy locally as much as possible to support the local mountain economies.
- Encourage trekkers to wash hair and body using a bucket dumped approximately 3 meters from the stream, or to bring biodegradable soap if they are going to wash in a stream. (If you are camping)
- Make sure the camping staff is not putting dish soap into the rivers or streams, but is dumping all soapy waste water away from water sources.
- Discuss respectfully keeping these mountain regions clean with villagers to maintain a sort of ‘Beyul’. And discuss appropriate clothing with trekkers, again encouraging them to respect these remote regions.
- Be an ambassador for Responsible Tourism- ‘Leave No Trace, only footprints’ and ensure sustainable travel.
These are some recommended ecofriendly measure trekkers can use while trekking, hiking and camping. Mountains are great source for relief so we shouldn’t cause harm to it.
These are all the protocols mentioned in the guidelines for tours and adventure activities. Nepal Hiking Team shall operate all of its future treks as per the guidelines. We know traveling amongst pandemic and following certain rules and regulations while your vacation may sound strange, however, in this time and date, we have to, so that yours, as well as other health, are protected.
Please do write to our support team at Nepal Hiking Team, if you have any queries. We are more than happy to assist you with whatever you need help with.