By Laura Taylor, Aug 6 2020 11:43AM
2020 – the year the world came to a standstill. No one ever saw it coming, but in a matter of weeks flights stopped, borders closed and people around the world were asked to stay at home.
As the UK went into lockdown in late March, so did the schools, and for school tour operator Rayburn Tours, this made the situation even more complicated.
Group travel specialists since 1965, Rayburn Tours is an independent, family-run business that’s dedicated to creating tailor-made educational, sports and ski trips for schools.
Managing director Jamie Boyden explained: “We were challenged on both ends of our operational chain. We were dealing with cancelled trips for schools – many of which had staff working remotely, and in some cases, not easily able to make contact with all parents – and we were dealing with suppliers in countries that are also in lockdown and in some cases unable to respond.”
“We’ve always been proud of our individual, tailored service. For decades, we’ve been telling schools how we work with each client individually to provide them with the tour that matches their needs, and in times like these it’s never been so important to be dealt with as an individual.”
Rayburn Tours recently announced their number one aim was to ensure their clients were not left out of pocket by a situation that was beyond anyone’s control.
Whether they postponed tours, helped groups claim on their insurance or issued a refund, the team worked tirelessly to ensure their clients wouldn’t lose out financially – and the work still continues.
Jamie added: “Does this approach mean it takes longer for all clients to get a resolution? Unfortunately, yes, as we are liaising with airlines, hoteliers and range of suppliers all around the world. But the pay-off is that it ensures our clients get the best outcome for their group.”
“Many have chosen to postpone their tour to 2021 in the anticipation that normal travel will resume. However, for groups where this is not possible and a refund is being issued, we are committed to doing everything we can to achieve this in 12-16 weeks.”
And it seems that this level of customer service, and the ability to be able to offer financial peace of mind, has given schools the confidence to start thinking about the future.
Jamie said: “Schools are still booking trips for 2021 with us which is fantastic to see, as it means they’re still keen to give their students the opportunity to learn in some of the most incredible destinations around the world – and we’re pleased to be able to help them facilitate this safely and confidently.”
So what does the future of travel look like?
“Well, the answer is, companies simply don’t know. Tour operators like Rayburn Tours will continue to monitor the developing situation closely, continue to communicate with clients, and adapt what they do to offer as much flexibility as possible to help schools plan future trips and, eventually, travel.
“We must be optimistic that a level of normality will return in all areas of our lives soon and, for our own mental health, we must give ourselves something to look forward to. And that thing is travel.”