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COVID-19 Safety and Hygiene Protocols for the Tourism Industry.
By COVID-19 | 18 Oct, 2023
The Himalayan Smile treks & adventures Pvt. Ltd to be strictly followed during activities COVID-19 Safety and Hygiene Protocols for the Tourism Industry. The Directives issued by the Health and Population Ministry, High-Level COVID-19 committee, and NTB HHS Protocols.
COVID-19, the most catastrophic pandemic of the century with its multi-faceted cascading effects, has come as a game-changer, making health and safety of our people and clients the topmost priority. In short, destinations will now compete for the best health and safety protocols in place to build upon the confidence of travelers.
Protocol For Tourism Office Management
This protocol applies to all types of offices in the tourism ecosphere. A similar standard has to be applied in all offices that run tourism activities in Nepal, in order to ensure a similar level of standard.
PRINCIPLES AND OBJECTIVES
Prioritize employee health and safety: Do everything to keep employees safe and healthy.
Meet Clients’/Partner’s needs: Try and achieve progress while working remotely and continue to meet client’s and partners’ needs in the face of these historic challenges.
Flexibility at work: Understand the need of the employees by being supportive during COVID-19.
Empower staff: Be fair, equitable, and understanding to employees empowering them to make individual decisions based on personal circumstances.
Promote Transparency: Provide and communicate a clear return to office plan to manage expectations and individual work planning for effective work results. Well defined job responsibilities should be outlined by the line managers and agreed upon by both the line manager and his/ her subordinate.
Plan and Learn for the Future: It is important to draw up or update crisis contingency plans for shutdown and start-up events in the future for the workplace. Teleworking/ working via Zoom for the first time may help us to consider adopting it as a modern, long-term working practice. The experience gained during the COVID-19 pandemic may feed into developing a teleworking /working remotely policy and procedures or revising existing ones.
Stay well informed: The amount of information related to COVID-19 can be overwhelming and it can be difficult to differentiate the reliable and accurate from the vague and misleading. Always check that the original source of the information is an established and qualified provider, such as the World Health Organization (WHO).
Request Clients To Provide The Following Information.
Each Trek and tour company should request clients to fill out a Booking Form that not only includes basic emergency details but also physical information such as age, any medical problems, any chronic diseases, and their travel history for the last 30 days.
Request clients to enroll in their respective country’s Safe Traveler Enrollment Program so they can receive any security or safety updates in case of emergency from their nearest Embassy/Consulate.
Ensure that the Client has adequate insurance coverage.
The lockdown is called off and it is deemed necessary to resume office hours (Minimizing Exposure to COVID-19 at work)
Make a roster so that only essential staff are in the office.
If there is no business, it is not necessary for everyone to be physically present.
Carry out only essential work, for the time being, postpone all less essential work to later when the risk is lower.
Suggest one staff from each department if deemed necessary. Otherwise, work from home.
Schedule online meetings regularly.
Office opening hours: 10 am to 02 pm.
IF BUSINESS IS SLOWLY PICKING UP
Working hours with shorter lunch break Encourage food from home
Rotation of personnel (divide work/staff into the first and second half): This way
People will slowly get into the habit of coming to work every day.
Office opening hours: 10 am to 04 pm
IF LOCKDOWN CONTINUES
Work from home
Stay updated via online
Continue with online meetings, wherever required and possible!
SAFETY AND HEALTH MEASURES AT WORKPLACE
Temperature check during entry and exit in office premises. Daily record to be
Do not use biometric attendance.
Office sanitization by disinfecting surfaces such as tables, doorknobs, handles,
Keyboard, computers, light switches, chairs, etc. to be done minimum twice a day.
Hand sanitizers to be made available in common areas.
Personal hygiene: Wash hands frequently with soap and water, use of masks is mandatory (to be checked in reception), gloves to be provided in the case.
Do not use or borrow other belongings such as pens, earphones, water bottles, etc. Do not share food or utensils.
Avoid using the elevator.
Proper ventilation of the premises and limited use of controlled air appliances. Help the cleaning service by keeping minimum visible objects in on the tables. Out of office visits will not be allowed unless strictly necessary.
Common areas such as kitchen, balcony, restrooms, meeting room, and reception (waiting place) to ensure strict physical distancing.
Place information boards in visible spots with clear hygiene and safety guidelines.
RECOMMENDED GREEN TIPS FOR OFFICES
Buy eco-friendly office supplies.
Avoid the use of too much paper. Print only if necessary- preferably double-sided printing option.
Do not use plastic mineral water bottles. Use reusable water bottles and mugs at work.
Email invoices and receipts to Customers/clients and discourage printing of the same.
Use energy-saving lights. LED lights conserve energy and last much longer than standard light bulbs while brightly illuminating the room.
Share printed files with coworkers to cut back on how many copies have to be
Have a recycling bin and encourage its use.
Turn off electricity, unplug electronics when not in use in order to save energy.
Shutdown computers and electronic devices when not in use to save power.
Instead of tissues and paper towels, install hand dryers in washrooms.
Protocol For Tours And Adventure Activities
These directives and protocols are for the operation of tours and adventure activities, keeping in mind the SAFETY of teams, travelers, and community.
All teams working in the conduction of tours and adventure activities should go through a training that includes:
Prevention of Infection, Breaking the Chain and Hygiene Protocols
Physical Distancing Protocols
Dynamic Problem Solving
Updated First Aid training.
An updated training record should be maintained by all members of the team as proof of the training.
The activity leader should also be trained in passing on the salient points of the training to other members of the team during the course of the operation.
All activity leaders have to maintain a Daily Leader Log according in a pre-established format to record itinerary and points of contact to facilitate contact tracing should the need arise. This could include daily temperature checks and self-administered symptom form by the clients
Daily briefings to include hygiene, physical distancing, and emergency protocols. Daily communication when possible with the office to report and get updates on the overall situation, so the itinerary can be followed and adapted according to the situation.
First Aid Kits with every Leader containing extra masks, disposable gloves soap, and/or Sanitizers.
Leaders should be mindful of communities where the tours and adventure activities are
Happening and minimize the chances of contamination.
Activity leaders should work alongside other leaders in a destination to ensure minimal risk of contamination, and maintain a high level of hygiene.
CLIENT / TRAVELLER AGREEMENTS
Clients should bring their own masks with them to use when traveling.
Clients should inform the guide/ leader of any symptoms of any sort of illness.
Clients should have travel medical insurance that includes helicopter evacuation, and the travel medical company would insurance that clients would be medevac out in case of any illness.
Clients shall agree to follow the company’s health and safety protocol in case of any suspected case of virus transmission or illness within the group or within the area.
Clients shall be requested to carry their own sanitizer with them in their packs at all times (they would bring their own on activity with them).
The Tour group shall maintain distance from other groups and local communities.
In the initial stage, lunchboxes shall be used for in-tour meals, and eventually, use a set of restaurants accredited for their hygiene levels and adherence to the restaurant protocol.
The Tour leader shall ensure the group understands the virus protocols of hygiene and physical distancing.
Tour Leader always has an updated First Aid kit and has extra masks and sanitizers, and is trained on how to use the kit!.
Regular contact with the office to know ground situations.
Tour Leader is trained regularly on the Emergency Protocol in case there is an outbreak (within the group or in the area where the group is touring).
All Trekkers and Mountaineers as with GT and Mountaineering group, FITs should trek with authorized agencies/ licensed guides to ensure safety.
Mountaineering/GT/FITs should not make any change in the approved trekking itinerary.
Group size should be 2-15 people only.
The Tour Leader must report the health status of group members in all the health posts that lie in the trekking route, also have health check-ups done. These reports are to be submitted regularly to the Agency for future contact tracing.
The groups shall mandatory Health check-up all the trekkers in Health check posts on the trekking route.
Group Health Check records including before and after the report should be submitted by the Agency to the Department of Tourism (DOT).
A clearance letter confirming responsible disposal/ return of non-biodegradable garbage has to be obtained from the local government body or authorized entity in the trekking area.
SECTION: II CAMPING TREKS
DINING TENT & CAMP PROTOCOLS
The dining tent should be well ventilated and large enough to have 1-meter space between trekkers.
Consider ways to get into and out of the dining tent without having to use a common zip.
Plenty of sanitizer in the push-top container inside the dining tent.
Warm washing water and soap provided outside the dining tent.
Avoid using a common towel for drying hands (use medical handshake).
Have separate bowls for clients for snacks so that clients are sharing serving utensils as little as possible.
Have guide serve snacks, meals, and tea so clients do not share common plates and utensils.
Clients and staff inside the tent must leave a tent when they cough or sneeze, or at the very least cough into their elbow or shirt.
Clients must wear masks in a dining tent (they should bring their own).
The trekking company should have a full medical kit including lots of extra masks, inhalers, plastic gloves, thermometers, and oxygen cylinders.
KITCHEN TENT, GUIDE & STAFF PROTOCOLS
Staff should be well trained to understand hygiene safety and health protocol
Staff would wear masks at all times at camp or when shopping for local supplies.
Sterilize all utensils, bowls, plates, and mugs for use in the dining tent (steam for 10 min).
Kitchen tent should have plenty of sanitizer (push-top container), soap and water
The kitchen tent would have plenty of clean towels for drying all plates, cups, and utensils (for clients). Wash after every use.
The usual distancing precautions would be observed when shopping for local supplies. Bring your own reusable shopping bags and wash them when finished shopping.
Guide and all staff would set a good example of adhering to the protocol for the clients to follow.
The guide should brief both staff and clients about ‘H.H.S Protocol’ before and during the trek, and make sure that both staff and clients are following these guidelines.
The guide should include in the daily briefing anything having to do with interactions with locals or village protocol during that day’s trek.
The guide should actively keep an eye on the medical condition of all clients.
Guides will carry appropriate satellite communications to report any emergency, evacuation of any sick, or potentially infected clients.
All clients will be in a single tent, except for couples or people who have traveled to Nepal together. Consider providing single tents without charging for a single supplement.
Clients shall agree (in writing) that they might have to leave the trek if the guide deems this to be medically necessary, possibly with the consent of their travel medical insurance company Operational Guideline with Health Protocol for Tourism Sector
HIKING & TRAVEL PROTOCOLS
The group shall not hand out sweets or other things to kids or locals while trekking or at camp. Although it’s certainly possible to keep items brought from the home virus-free if there was a virus outbreak in a village it might be linked to the trekking group.
The group shall not invite other people into dining, kitchen, or personal tents (serve tea or snacks to locals outside all tents).
The group shall not enter villager’s houses, have encounters with villagers except at a safe distance.
Only Namaste, no hugs or handshakes with anyone at any time.
All clients shall have single rooms, (wherever applicable) except for couples or people who have traveled to Nepal together.
All groups shall maintain social and physical distancing as per protocol from other trekking groups, lodge staff, and locals.
Follow protocol guidelines for shopping, interactions with locals as on camping treks.
The guide shall advise clients to the only shop from local shops where safety guidelines are being adhered.
The guide shall advise clients to strictly follow health protocols in lodges (coughing into elbow or shirt, wearing masks, not handing common condiment containers without clean hands, not touching door handles without clean hands, not using any common towel, etc).
The guide shall ensure that the lodge owners and staff are maintaining their property as per established guidelines.
The guide shall make sure that the kitchen facilities and rooms in the lodges are clean, sanitized, and sterilized.
AQUA/ AERIAL/ OTHER ACTVITIES
Since Aqua and Aerial activities contact intensive, additional protocols are being considered for maximizing safety during these activities.
AERIAL/ OTHERS: To follow the same protocols as in Adventure activities for hygiene and safety issues.
RAFTING/ CANOEING/ KAYAKING/ CANYONING
Make available hand sanitizer, mask, and glove for staff and clients
Code of conduct to be displayed prominently for guest assurance
Rafts, Oars, Life Jackets, Vehicle, Kitchen, Dining, Utensils, Tent, mattress, sleeping bags, etc should be sanitized as per above protocols
Wear Masks, and Gloves, use Sanitizer and other Protective accessories
Wash hands after every contact with any objects or surface or as per need
Stay at a minimum of 1-meter distance from each other
On The Raft:
Each client shall have a minimum of 1 m distance inside the raft.
Family members shall maintain 1 m minimum distance and as per raft capacity
To follow the same protocol as in trekking/ camping
To maintain 1 m space when queuing up for booking service, boarding the vehicle, meals, boarding the raft, in all areas where service is being received and throughout the entire journey
Group distancing shall be determined according to the nature of the clients like FITs, Group, Family and domestic tourists
Ensure crowding is avoided and distancing is maintained in all public places.
Limited contact with communities when camping.
Ensure proper management of Waste/Garbage Materials at the campsite.
Health checkup is compulsory for all the participants at the beginning and the end of the activities in nearby Health check post. Its records should be maintained and submitted to DOT
RECOMMENDED GREEN TIP FOR ADVENTURE ACTIVITIES
Leave no trace, only footprints; bring out what you bring in, burn paper but not plastic, leave the campsite the way you found it, or better. Work with each national park or trekking region to have a system like Upper Mustang. Camping groups register at the Operational Guideline with Health Protocol for Tourism Sector check posts with a list of all cans and bottles brought into the park and have to bring the same number back out when they leave.
Involve the staff and trekkers in cleaning up the trails and campsites as they travel through the region. Trekking in these remote mountain regions is a privilege that should be respected, and encouraging the trekkers to get involved will create a sense of responsibility, in a positive way!
Decant as much as possible from glass and plastic into reusable plastic containers. Carry out all cans, bottles, and plastic.
Separate trash in the dining and kitchen tents, burn dry paper trash but not plastics, bury organic waste.
Make sure the toilet tents have a deep hole and is completely covered when finished! Toilet tents should be away from all springs and water sources, and not in the middle of any flat, potential tent spot.
Make sure the trekkers are also bringing out their trash, and not putting things like used batteries into the common trash container.
Encourage staff and trekkers to clean up campsites. We sometimes have a purifying puja – burning juniper – after we’ve cleaned a campsite so that the staff feels proud of what they have achieved.
Buy locally as much as possible to support the local mountain economies.
Encourage trekkers to wash hair and body using a bucket dumped approximately 3 meters from the stream, or to bring biodegradable soap if they are going to wash in a stream.
Make sure the camping staff is not putting dish soap into the rivers or streams but is dumping all soapy wastewater away from water sources.
Discuss respectfully keeping these mountain regions clean with villagers to maintain a sort of ‘Beyul’. And discuss appropriate clothing with trekkers, again encouraging them to respect these remote regions.
Be an ambassador for Responsible Tourism- ‘Leave No Trace, only footprints’ and ensure sustainable travel.
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Himalayan Smile Treks and Adventures Pvt. Ltd. is a locally owned and managed trekking company established by
a team of professionals who have long years of experience in travel, trekking, tour and adventure activities
in Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan.