By now, most of us have learned and internalized the steps we have to take to stop the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, and one of those is to avoid congregating in groups.
Although not everyone agrees on what constitutes a "safe" group (is it 10? 50?), the whole notion of just being in close proximity with other people -- especially people you don't know -- makes planning and selling group tours to Europe tricky.
Of course, most European borders are closed to us for the moment anyway, but the ominous specter of a possible second wave of the virus in the fall -- and some experts even saying Covid-19 will be around for so long that we'll have to get used to living with it -- means that travelers may still be skittish about signing on to a full-blown group tour when the EU lifts those restrictions.
Discover Your Italy, a boutique travel outfitter that has previously only offered handcrafted private tours, is tackling the problem with a new line of seven small-group tours to debut in 2021.
The Our Italy tours will launch next spring, will be limited in size to 20 guests and will feature a new collaboration with Autentico Hotels, a collection of 16 upscale family-owned and operated boutique hotels scattered across the destination.
"With the advent of Covid-19, we understand that anyone traveling abroad in the next few years will require new levels of health and safety reassurances," said Matteo Della Grazia, co-owner, Discover Your Italy. "We have deliberately kept the new group tour sizes small, which enables us to book intimate boutique hotels, thereby limiting guest exposure, and focused each itinerary on off-the-beaten path locations and experiences."
The company is an associate member of Ustoa and will be following all of the safety and hygiene protocols set in place with the TourCare Guidelines.
Similarly, G Adventures is offering a new collection of small-group tours with physical distancing in mind.
In addition to smaller group size, the Travel with Confidence Plus Collection also offers increased hygiene and sanitization across all its tours.
G Adventures is partnering with the Adventure Travel Trade Association to create a set of industry health and safety guidelines, including rules for trekking, biking and rafting, created in collaboration with the Cleveland Clinic.
All trips will have between eight to 10 travelers, down from the average group size of 12, and will feature the exclusive use of private vehicles on land, with distanced, assigned seating; a My Own Room option for 50% off across all tours in the collection; and more personal guestroom space and guaranteed en suite bathrooms.
"We absolutely understand different people are going to have different comfort levels, and it's our job to make sure we cater to all our travelers with trips that meet them where they're at so we can get all our travelers out exploring the world again," said G Adventures' founder, Bruce Poon Tip.
European offerings in this collection include a Walk the Camino de Santiago-Plus tour of northern Spain from Sarria and to Santiago de Compostela and the Best of Iceland-Plus for an exploration of the destination's glacier lagoons, waterfalls and black-sand beaches.
Meanwhile, Globus is touting its European Private Touring program, which, while not a new product, is being repositioned as particularly pandemic-friendly. The way it works is that groups of from two to 24 can create their own private version of any Globus Europe tour and tinker with it according to the interests of the group.
Tours include the services of a dedicated tour director, private transportation and private guides.