When the CDC mandated last month that international travelers entering or transiting through the U.S. must obtain a negative test within three days of departure, Delta Vacations swung into action. According to Jennie Ho, the tour operator’s president, the company had a two-week period to respond to the requirement, which went into effect Jan. 26. It immediately reached out to all of its hotel partners to see if they could offer onsite testing, and many responded that they could.
As a result, the day after the mandate went into effect, Delta Vacations introduced a new policy that it would feature only hotels outside of the country that provided testing.
Brian Canning, vice president of growth and engagement, said the policy was set in place so that “we could guarantee to advisors that their clients could not book a bad experience. We took away the possibility of not knowing what to do as far as being out of the country and needing a test.” He added, “We wanted to make sure that vacations felt like vacations and guests didn’t have to worry about where they might find a test while they were away.”
While a number of hotels were removed from the inventory because of the policy, said Canning, travelers were still left with plenty of choices – primarily in Latin America and the Caribbean where most international travel is currently taking place. As of now, the policy is in place until March 31, but is open to extension, said Canning, depending on the environment as that date approaches.
In addition, the operator is adding information on its website and on its agent portal (Worldagentdirect.com) about what happens if a traveler does, in fact, test positive while out of the country. The site details whether the hotel will offer reduced or complimentary room rates for extending a stay in the event of a positive test. It even specifies whether or not the testing is included in the price.
Delta Vacations already had comprehensive health and safety policies in place, according to Ho. As a subsidiary of Delta Airlines, she said, the operator’s flights must adhere to the Delta CareStandard, which includes keeping all surfaces and high-traffic areas clean and disinfected, blocking middle seats on board, and offering safer service and care at every point in the travel journey.
On arrival, said Ho, “we step in as soon as the traveler steps off the plane.” The operator implements the Delta CareStandard on local transportation and in partner hotels.
On its website, Delta Vacations labels which hotels and car rental companies follow the Delta CareStandard requirements, although it is up to travelers if they want to book those or other suppliers. To earn that label, hotels must follow a list of criteria including mandatory mask-wearing, frequent and visible cleaning of public spaces and enforcement of social distancing. As advisors shop for hotels, said Ho, “they can have a high level of confidence that these hotels are safe.”
The operator also requires that transfers must be in vehicles with 60 percent capacity. Ho said she went to the Rivera Maya in October “and my luggage has never been so clean” as a result of multiple cleanings by suppliers along the way.
All of this information is on a new page providing up-to-date travel policies and hotel information. It includes a list of recommended destinations (including COVID-19 requirements and restrictions). It can be found at https://www.delta.com/us/en/delta-vacations/vacation-now.