Safety in Study Abroad and The Safe Travels Stamp

This post was originally published on March 3, 2021. Please be sure to check our website for the most up-to-date information.

How can you determine who is following the safest cleaning and social distancing protocols?

This is a question we all must face, as we choose a grocery store, a restaurant for dine-in or take-out, or a hotel. Colleges and universities must answer this question for millions of students across the country, as schools make plans to resume study abroad programs.

Every school is likely to have a different opinion about how to determine the safest practices, as will each study abroad provider.

So how will a college or university study abroad office determine whether EF Education First or another study abroad provider best aligns with their vision for safe practices once travel resumes?

The new Safe Travels Stamp, created in 2020 by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), can help solve this problem. The stamp was designed to allow travelers and travel stakeholders to recognize companies and governments that have adopted health and hygiene global standardized protocols.

EF Education First is honored to be a recipient of the WTTC Safe Travels Stamp.

This stamp indicates to colleges and universities that on every EF program, all hotels, buses, restaurants, museums, local tour guides, and all other activity partners are aligned with the WTTC’s Global Safe Travels Health and Hygiene Protocols. All aspects of EF’s study abroad programs meet the strictest standards for safety and hygiene protocols set by the travel and tourism industry.

What is the WTTC?

The World Travel & Tourism Council was created in 1990 to maximize the growth potential of the travel and tourism industry. Members come from all sectors of the travel and tourism industry, such as airlines, hotels, hospitality groups, travel agents, and tour operators. WTTC members worked with governments, health experts, and other travel industry associations to develop the COVID-19 health and hygiene protocols to ensure the safety of travelers and of travel industry workers.

The WTTC protocols take into account the guidelines from the World Health Organization and the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The protocols call for travel providers to establish that their partners follow like-minded health, sanitation, disinfection, and hygiene and food safety protocols.

EF’s New Safety Protocols

At EF, we’ve taken these guidelines to heart. We created new health and wellness standards for all our program experiences that go above and beyond the COVID safety guidelines and protocols recommended by the WTTC. As we look ahead to traveling in the age of COVID-19, health and wellness will have a critical influence on how we design and operate programs. Since EF operates in so many countries around the world, it is vital that we have new health and wellness standards that are applied across borders.

EF’s on-the-ground presence in the areas where we travel means we are continuously working with our local partners to enhance the safety protocols on our programs. EF staff and partners worldwide are collaborating to ensure that all new, enhanced safety measures are put in place along every step of our programs. We aren’t only supplying extra masks and sanitizer; for instance, we are also prepared to adjust itineraries to avoid crowded locations at peak times, and we are working with all of our partner hotels and restaurants to ensure they are frequently cleaned and disinfected. Each decision is carefully made with the goal of maintaining the integrity of our program experiences while ensuring our travelers’ safety remains our top priority.

Paolo Meineri, Director of Operations at EF, explains our commitment to going the extra mile: “We proudly can say that we visit every type of supplier… restaurants, hotels, trains, buses… everything that touches land is contracted by my team. This is something that in the industry is unmatched. No other company deploys so many people on the road visiting suppliers.”

We will also provide and arrange extensive services to our travelers, at no additional cost, if anyone is diagnosed with COVID while on an EF program (see here for the most up-to-date information on our COVID Care Promise).

EF Study Abroad’ s President, Christian Meyer, has spent the past 12 months thinking through how we can support students. He shares:

“I have four sons—two in college and two in the public K–12 system. Both as a parent and as EF Study Abroad’s Representative, safety is at the forefront of my mind. Yes, safety protocols are changing, and much is still uncertain. But what I am certain of is that we will support our travelers every step of the way.”

Adjusting to New Realities

As the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic shifts, changes will also come in terms of medical guidance; travel rules regarding testing, vaccines, and quarantines; and more. It is therefore essential that travel providers adjust to new realities.

Both the WTTC and EF recognize our new health guidelines and protocols are dynamic and must continue to change as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves. Any organization with the Safe Travels Stamp must ensure ongoing compliance with the WTTC protocols, which will be updated as new information becomes available about COVID-19. (Click here to read more about our most up-to-date health and wellness standards as well as our enhanced preparation and on-program measures.)

Here are EF, we are in the best position to do just that. Not only do we have a dedicated in-house Safety and Incident Response Team comprised of industry experts, healthcare experts, and even former FBI personnel, plus an operations team dedicated to ensuring all our vendors and suppliers are following all recommended protocols, we also have a global presence that is truly unmatched.

We’re talking staff on the ground 365 days a year in over 50 countries. And we do not just work in those countries – we call them home. In fact, EF team members live in nearly every one of our program destinations. That means we have the local knowledge to help keep our groups safe, and you’ll have friendly faces nearby to offer a helping hand.

Returning to Travel

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the safety requirements for the entire process of travel, from arriving at the airport to leaving the airport after a group’s return. When travelers land, EF Study Abroad will be there to take care of all the logistical details, as we have in the past. In our 55+ years of experience, we have handled numerous unforeseen circumstances. For instance, Dr. Holderby was one of our faculty leaders who was supposed to travel to Japan in February 2020, when COVID-19 cases were rising but there was not yet a pandemic. EF Study Abroad worked with Dr. Holderby to re-route the group to Ireland, England, and Scotland. She said afterward:

“I have been traveling with EF for 15 years. I wouldn’t travel with anyone else. I know they always have my back. Anytime I have ever had even the slightest issue either during enrollment or while on tour, it has only taken one call to EF and they have their experts working to fix the situation.”

At EF Study Abroad, we cannot wait for study abroad to resume. We know the power of studying overseas, including both the unparalleled educational opportunities and the personal growth that happens during these programs. Currently, we are working with colleges and universities to plan programs in late 2021 and 2022. Take a look at the programs we offer, and contact us if you’d like us to discuss a program on our website or if you would like us to customize a program for you.

EF’s Safety Assurance Commitment | EF Study Abroad

Check out our other blog posts about safety and security here.