written by V.Canini
Published in Traverse Magazine, Issue #18
Well, ...who would have thought what was just about to transpire? Certainly not me as I was just about to embark on a fully loaded travel plan for 2020. You can read more about that in my next blog. (link to South India trip and covid story) but due to all the cancellations and now delay for all our adventures, Traverse made contact and asked a few questions, this is what they asked.
Traverse: How has the Corona Virus impacted your business??
Motorcycle Expeditions: Well it literally put us in about face position. Its taken years for us to get where we are in the industry, and we went from frantically organising tour logistics and riders, to being knocked off our feet by an unexpected landslide. We had no idea what was about to unfold.
Traverse: When did it first become evident that you would be impacted?
Motorcycle Expeditions: My first inkling was late February, when I landed in Fort Kochi for our South India adventure. When disembarking the plane, all passengers were required to follow a newly introduced procedure, due to the new COVID19. We had to fill in a questionnaire asking various questions of our current health status and what our past and future travel plans were. Our temperatures were also taken followed by further questioning by authorities before being allowed to continue through to customs.
Traverse: Has there been a down turn in customers?
Motorcycle Expeditions: I don't think so, but only time will tell. Besides the obvious cancellations, its hard to tell how quickly the tourism industry will recover. We are optimistic that 2021 will have a much brighter outcome than 2020, but its too early to say what will happen. We are grateful that our clients are supportive, and have faith in not only us but the tourism industry.
Traverse: Are customers cancelling tours or just postponing to another time?
Motorcycle Expeditions: Before our clients had a chance, we had already chosen to cancel and reschedule our adventures prior to the imposed lock downs. Our clients have been great and very patient with us, and I think they are, in return grateful for our honesty and diligence in making sure that they, and their loved ones come first. After all, life is too short and complicated, as it is, without a pandemic thrown in the mix.
Traverse: What are customers generally telling you?
Motorcycle Expeditions: Apart from expressing their disappointment of having to cancel, we are very sad to hear, that some of our clients are now faced with financial hardship, due to the pandemic. With uncertainty looming on what the future may hold, and how long until we see some sort of normality, most having young families, we understand how difficult this period is going to be. In an effort to support our clients, we chose to refund their money with no questions asked.
Traverse: What have you put into place to get through this crisis?
Motorcycle Expeditions: Apart from the adventures themselves being shut down, our offices in India, Germany and Australia generally work in a remote environment anyway, and so we are still open for online business and able to take general enquiries. Our garage is closed, and all our staff are working from home where possible and are redirecting their assistance and support, towards a self funded charity called Manali Strays. Their aim is to help feed the local strays, as lock down almost immediately created a new problem for these furry friends and the community. But I'll cover that in another blog.
Manali Strays - Kamlesh (Vet Doctor & Co-Founder)
Traverse: When do you see things starting to get back to normal?
Motorcycle Expeditions: This unfortunately is an unknown, and far from our control. We are all subjected to governing laws and of course when restrictions will be lifted world wide. Even after we get the all clear, and people are allowed to travel, (not only across our own borders, but international waters), I think travellers are going to be more cautious, with not only how they travel, but where they travel to, and even who they travel with. It may take some time before we can safely say business as usual, but we're staying optimistic.
Traverse: What does the future hold for your business (short and long term)?
Motorcycle Expeditions: Short term it is definitely going to hurt, our adventures are already quite competitively priced and are kept at a minimum cost for the client. Unlike some operators, we actually have a great team of employees that are still currently employed and getting paid, while our motorcycles are sitting idle in our garage, where normally they are on tour and of course those of which we rent out to other operators. We still have the maintenance/running costs and of course the garage overheads to contend with.
Long term, well I think this may be obvious. With no income, it will be a tough ask to keep going, but we're looking forward and we'll do our best for as long as we possibly can. After all we are all passionate motorcyclists and adventurers. If worst comes to worst, we'll just downsize temporarily. On a more positive note though, it has allowed us time to collaborate, brain storm and improve as a team.
Traverse: How has this impacted your partners and the regions your tours visit?
Motorcycle Expeditions: Most of the regions we visit, rely heavily on tourism, and with all the restrictions, has seen what usually is bustling with foreigners and even local travellers, are now ghost towns. Apart from local grocery stores, all Hotels, Restaurants, and accommodation in general have all been forced to closed. Unlike here in Australia, restaurants are not allowed to operate as take away options for the local community of the Himalayas, which is why the strays are getting more aggressive... no restaurants, no food scraps. With interstate transport also downsized to the barest minimum, the remote regions are finding it difficult for even just basic supplies.
Traverse: What advice can you offer to someone thinking about booking a tour in the future?
Motorcycle Expeditions: Firstly decide where you'd like to go, for how long and what is your budget. Even if you don't know, then create a short list of operators and/or agents that run various adventures and compare everything.
Compare apples for apples, what do you actually get for the money, what services are being offered, length of adventure, and of course the adventure itineraries themselve. Take note of what IS and what IS NOT included. Remember, just because an adventure is more expensive, does not necessarily mean that you will get a better service or experience.
And make sure you read all the terms and conditions and any other important links, as boring as it may be, you'll get a lot of your questions answered there. And ask more questions if its not covered in the t&c's, there is no such thing as a stupid question, especially when it comes to some of the regions we travel to. Not only will you have a better insight on whats available, but you'll be more comfortable in knowing that you are making a more educated decision.
If anyone does have any questions, then get in touch about our 2021 adventures.
For more details contact Viv
B: metalmaiden photography blog