By Christophe Chabaudie
Short school trips or long immersion programs are meant to be enjoyable learning experiences for teens. Making this happen is what gives us a strong reputation among teachers, school administrators and parents. Over the last 15 years, the world has changed and become increasingly complex. And so have the rules of travel. Obviously, group travel has been affected by this shift. Assessing the risk of traveling is a constant exercise for us. At Magellan, safety has always been our number one priority. Safety in this business is probably the most important yet the least communicated. We, however, do safety well by developing itineraries that keep participants safe at all times, and by training our tour directors to deliver what’s best and what’s safe. There is no such a thing as "zero risk" when traveling, but constant assessment of risk is a good answer to our ever changing world.
I have now been working in the educational travel sector for over 12 years, taking an active part in the planning process, operations, and I enjoy leading programs abroad. Because I’m curious, I have always enjoyed finding out about new destinations before designing new itineraries. I have backpacked in a lot of countries, particularly in Central America. Firsthand experience on the ground is the most resourceful and accurate source of information. We know how to look beyond the official message of governmental tourism offices, whose main task is to attract new customers and open new markets. We rely on countless resources to assess a country’s real situation. For example, it took over 2 years to add Panama to our list of safe destinations after 3 assessment trips. We need to feel 100% sure about a new destination because we want you to feel 100% safe. As Executive Director of an educational travel company, I personally believe that it is my responsibility to be aware of social tensions, economic downturns, armed conflicts, and complications in certain areas of the globe that can affect business or alter group itineraries. I understand the need to and claim the right to put some countries on the “no-go” list for our groups because safety comes first.
Peace of mind is not a luxury: students have travel and medical insurance built into the cost of their travel. We carry a comprehensive liability insurance from a globally respected insurance company. Teachers enjoy the same benefits, and staff respect strict rules in order to make everyone safe: no standing in line in front of museums or landmarks (reservations are always essential), bookings in restaurants or hotels are always made without releasing essential information regarding nationality or type of group. Magellan has always operated respecting these basic steps. Students are encouraged to listen to their tour director’s instructions, to avoid constant use of headphones which keeps them isolated “in their world”, and to practice vigilance at all times: 35 pairs of eyes are always better than one. Sharing responsibility gives travelers, whether students or adults, a chance to learn and grow while traveling. A trip abroad is a pivotal moment in a teenager’s life, like a rite of passage. More than ever before, it would be a disservice to avoid mentioning the minimal basics of safe travel. It is best for students to learn sooner than later what safe and responsible international travel in today’s world involves. Safe travel is responsible travel. And a safe trip enhances a fun and memorable experience.
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