Dear friends, colleagues and clients,
The world has changed in the last few weeks. We have gone from the start of what would have been an exciting tour season, to laying off employees that are like family to us, working from home, cutting benefits and pay, and completely changing our professional focus. It's crushing for all of us, personally, professionally, financially and mentally. Many of us have worked through SARS, 9/11, and Zika, but nothing like this. The sheer magnitude of this event is overwhelming.
Let us say a little about Grand Classroom. It is an American small business in the hardest hit industry worldwide. We are not a large corporation, with investors and banks backing us up. We started in the garage of our founder 18 years ago and still have our six original employees with us. We only had 150 travelers that first year, and now we’re up to 12,000 because of our excellent product and personal service. The office has grown to 32 employees. Sadly, we have already cut 25% of our workforce last week. That’s the truth.
We are disappointed, along with our teachers and students, that many of our trips cannot be run this season, not by our choice and not by the school's choice, but due to forces beyond all of our control. We ask you to have some patience and allow us to address this reasonably. We know you are disappointed and concerned about where this leaves you, and we are in communication right now with our point of contact in every school. We are working around the clock to address everyone’s needs. And, like most of you, we find ourselves having to work on top of caring for families and the added stress of watching history unfold. It is an uncertain future for all of us.
As you know, we start to plan most tours 9-12 months in advance. We have prepaid non-refundable costs depending on your departure date, and over that 9-12 months, we incur internal operating expenses that we cannot disregard. Please keep this reality in mind when making the assumption that you should get an immediate full refund. Unwinding this situation will be a marathon, not a sprint.
In closing, we want to keep our doors open so that we can provide partial refunds where possible and maintain strong relationships, which will enable us to run a successful 2020/2021 tour season when life returns to normal. We all need to have some measure of hope that life will go on and we will be able to enjoy these experiences again.
The Grand Classroom Team
Safety is the first priority in travel at Grand Classroom, and the staff is monitoring the emerging, rapidly evolving situation with COVID-19 (Coronavirus). The CDC provides recommendations on postponing or canceling travel through a system called travel notices. Grand Classroom is following the CDC notices listed here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html.
Warning Level 3: CDC recommends travelers avoid all nonessential travel to destinations with level 3 travel notices because of the risk of getting COVID-19.
Alert Level 2: Because COVID-19 can be more serious in older adults and those with chronic medical conditions, older adults and those with chronic medical conditions should talk to a healthcare provider and consider postponing travel to destinations with level 2 travel notices.
Watch Level 1: CDC does not recommend canceling or postponing travel to destinations with level 1 travel notices because the risk of COVID-19 is thought to be low. If you travel, take the following routine precautions:
As an organization, we have withstood other outbreaks and have the resources to navigate this as well. Our hearts go out to those affected worldwide by the outbreak, and we look forward to safely continuing the important mission of educational travel for our youth.
For the safety of everyone involved, Grand Classroom is following the travel advisories set out by the CDC and the U.S. Department of State.
We ask that any group leader or parent familiarize themselves with these two sites:
If you are traveling to a place that the CDC deems warning level three or "Avoid Nonessential Travel", the trip will be rescheduled or rerouted. The same applies to the U.S. Department of State advisory level four "Do Not Travel".
Level Three - Avoid Nonessential Travel
Level Two - Practice Enhanced Precautions
Level One - Practice Usual Precautions
As to any other destination, the trips will proceed as planned. We are watching these sites on an hourly basis to monitor for changes.
Grand Classroom will be vigilant in following these government guidelines and we encourage you to follow along as well.