Since this Covid-19 Pandemic began in the United States back in March, we've all been asking the same questions.
What will travel safety look like going forward? Will travel be safe again in the future? What will tour operators like NationsClassroom be doing to keep students safe while traveling?
Over the months of June and July, we've been publishing interviews with some student travel experts as we seek to answer these questions for you. The videos will cover all aspects of student travel, including hotel safety standards, transportation, and general best practices.
In this interview, Shane from Starr Tours shares what her company is doing to keep travelers safe and healthy while touring.
Starr Tours is one of the leading industry experts in proactively tackling the topic of bus safety. We usually use over 100 Starr Buses during our spring tour season, and our teachers love working with Starr because of their high quality coaches, excellent customer service, and incredible bus drivers.
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Introduction: Can you tell us a little bit more about Starr Tours? (0:48)
[Shane] I've been with the company (Starr) for almost 25 years, but Starr has been in business since 1947. We primarily service the New York and Pennsylvania areas, but we do a lot of business in Washington, D.C. and New York City. Of course, we work with NationsClassroom quite a bit.
Our company is now in it's third generation, we own and operate a fleet of 40 motor coaches, and we are very specialized in the student travel business sector. We love doing student business, we have drivers that want to do this business every single year that repeat with NationsClassroom groups. They just get a kick out of working with the kids and teachers. We're very excited to continue moving forward, even in these unique times, to do what we can to keep students and teachers safe.
Question One: In a recent interview with yahoo business your CEO mentioned that he felt student travel would be one of the first segments to come back. We certainly agree, but can you share a bit of his reasoning? (1:40)
Alan Glickman is our CEO, he's also been a former chair of the safety committee of the American Bus Association. We're very much focused on safety everyday. Really in that interview, we're looking at what this pandemic has done and what segments of the business we think will come back the quickest. We do feel that student business will return sooner than other segments of the business. We feel that in any time of crisis, and this is not the only crisis to face the travel industry, parents and students really rely on the extra experiences that they get by traveling and extending their curriculum on the road by seeing things and learning in person. There's just nothing like it. We know that parents, of course, are always going to do what they can to commit themselves to getting students back on the road. Even though we are in some financially challenging situation for many people, folks will always go back to invest in their kids and try to get them back first. We'll always do for our kids FIRST, myself includes as a mom. I think it's exciting to look into the future and see what's going to happen both this summer and in the fall.
Question Two: Starr has always been known for its incredible service and equipment, but what are some of the steps you are taking pre-departure as well as while on tour to maintain bus cleanliness and safety? (3:34)
Great question, that's something that is definitely on every ones minds for sure. We're very excited about the fact that we have already been partnered with a professional cleaning service. Where many companies might clean their vehicles themselves, we've actually been partnered with a professional company that does cleaning in schools and hospitals, other places that are very specialized in what they do. We're excited about that partnership for obvious reasons. They are specialists in disinfecting and working in environments where viruses are present. They actually are doing all the daily cleanings of every single vehicle, so every vehicle will be sanitized in this way.
In addition to that, we really want to do everything we can to ensure there are extra steps in place, so every 14 days we're also going to be implementing an electrostatic sanitation process which is kind of neat. It's actually somebody wearing a backpack and spraying a specialized formula that will completely disinfect the vehicle. It actually works to cling to all surfaces of the vehicle - the cloth and all the hard surfaces. It takes about ten minutes to spray using this backpack, it's a pretty neat process to watch. We know that this will give the coaches an extra, EXTRA deep clean. Those are the things we're doing pre-departure.
Obviously, coaches will be out for several days, so we've equipped every single driver with their own cleaning-to-do kit. They're going to have the same specialized cleaning wipes. Clorox wipes are great, and we'll have those as well. But we'll have some even more specialized wipes specifically for this type of virus. The drivers will have those to wipe down all of the high-touch surfaces, handrails, seat rests, and overhead racks to make sure all surfaces are cleaned several times a day. We're going to put all those things in play. We think between the pre-cleaning and the onboard cleaning, we're going to have a very, very safe and super clean vehicle.
Question Three: While we are still waiting on guidance from the CDC and other authorities on bus travel, do you see scenarios in the future with less capacity on the buses or do you believe that masks, along with bus cleaning, will be enough for safety purposes? (6:02)
Great question, Christina. I think in this stage, masks are going to be something we'll see for the next several months until we can get past this pandemic. Certainly our drivers will have them onboard. Students and teachers will be wearing them onboard as well. We're going to be doing other things like have antibacterial lotion available. But, I think moving forward, especially in this segment of travel, we see that we can safely disinfect the vehicle and still keep it fairly close to full capacity - maybe not completely full, we need space for a few people to move around. We think this environment is still very, very safe.
Would I say the same for all segments of the travel industry? Maybe not as much, for seniors and more at-risk travelers especially. But we really think that having this clean and disinfected vehicle will be safe as long as everyone continues to wash their hands and use the sanitizer on board. It's really going to make for a safe environment for travel.