It’s astonishing how much the world has changed in the week since I wrote this message. Italy went into full lockdown. The CDC moved most of Europe (except the UK, Ireland, and Turkey) to “Level 3” travel advisory: Americans should cancel nonessential travel there. And across the US, everything from local schools, to NBA and March Madness games, to theme parks and music festivals have been cancelled. And that’s just as of March 13.
We’ve decided to cancel all of our Rick Steves’ Europe tour departures through April 19, and we are closely monitoring the situation, with a plan to cancel additional departures as needed. If you are booked on a Rick Steves tour, keep an eye on our up-to-date Coronavirus Tour Member FAQ. Our top priority is the health and well-being of our travelers and tour guides, and our sense of responsibility not to contribute to the further spread of the virus. Even though Americans are still technically allowed to visit Europe…you probably shouldn’t.
Cancelling these tours is a hard decision. Sure, we stand to lose a lot of revenue. But much more important to me is that I hate to see so many long-yearned-for travel dreams dashed. And our hearts are going out to our European guides, hoteliers, bus companies, and other partners and friends in the travel business who are suffering financially. In the coming weeks, I’ll be collecting and sharing on-the-ground coronavirus reports from these European friends.
As for me: Even though Turkey is still not included in the CDC travel advisory, it’s pretty clear that I won’t be on the flight I’ve booked to Istanbul on April 12. I have such fun travels planned for this year, but I’ll play it safe, decide closer to the departure date, and take them one trip at a time. I know I’ll get back to Europe — I’m just not sure yet exactly when.
Our tours may be on hold, but Rick Steves’ Europe is not going into hibernation. My office staff of 100 is now working mostly from home, with instructions to take good care of all those whose dreams to travel on a Rick Steves tour have been upended (at least, in the short term), and to keep producing top-quality travel content. Our mood is actually upbeat — confident that this pandemic will pass and Americans will be heading back to Europe before long. And when they do, our team at Rick Steves’ Europe will be ready to inspire, inform, and equip them to have the best trips possible.
In the meantime, we’ll shift into “armchair travel” mode. You probably won’t be going to Europe in the next several weeks — and in fact, you may be stuck inside your house. But that doesn’t mean you can’t dream about your next trip and think back on your favorite European moments. Keep an eye on my blog and Facebook, where (starting today) I’ll be sharing a “daily dose” of my favorite European memories. We all deserve a break from panic-inducing headlines…and travel dreams are immune to any virus.
During this crisis, we stand in solidarity with our fellow travelers and Europe-lovers — and with our European friends who are fighting this same fight. We’ll stand together, remain militantly optimistic, and look forward to the day when we turn those wonderful travel dreams into reality.
Thank you for being part of this community of travelers. And keep on traveling…even if, for now, it’s from home.