We've all been through a tough few months. The social distancing, home sheltering and economic uncertainties are challenging enough, but for dive travelers there's the added frustration of not being able to get on a plane and into the water. These things will pass. Possibly within a few months, and maybe a bit longer in some parts of the world. As avid divers and travelers ourselves, the Caradonna team has a few ideas and suggestions to help smooth your reentry into diving. Much like the country's reopening in general, our return to the water is likely to take place in a series of phases, beginning close to home.
Your reentry into diving can begin even before you hit the water. If that gear's been sitting for a while, it's probably due for routine service. Local dive shops around the country are getting ready to receive customers, and some are also offering pick up and drop off services. So now's the time to get that regulator tuned up, put fresh batteries in the dive computer, and maybe treat yourself to a new wetsuit. And it's a good idea to do it earlier rather than later, as dive shops will likely see a rush in service orders once diving activity and travel resumes.
Your local dive shop is also a great resource for dive planning. Caradonna is in ongoing contact with shops and group travel leaders across the country. This network can keep you up to speed on the latest developments, whether it's information on accessing a local site, or getting the latest word of resorts and flights at our favorite international destinations.
Your first opportunity to get in the water may come close to home — or at least within a reasonable driving distance. Packing some gear in the trunk and heading to a favorite local dive site is an easy, secure way to go diving. Opportunities abound, from the life-rich waters of the Pacific Northwest and the kelp forests of California to the historic shipwrecks of the Great Lakes and North Carolina, or Florida's Gulf Stream-washed shores and sparkling springs. And while some might argue that some of these activities may not offer the thrills of a world-class wall dive or a big animal encounter, there's a lot to be said for simply slipping below the surface and enjoying the weightless calm that diving provides.
Diving locally is also a great way to tune up for what is to come. Such submersions provide a chance to ensure the gear is working and fitting properly, and to refresh in-water skills that may have gotten a bit rusty during those weeks of confinement on the couch. This might also be a good time to get with that local dive shop and upgrade skills with additional training such as a rescue or specialty course.
Over the next few months, diving resorts and destinations that are now closed to international travel will begin to reopen. Caradonna is in regular contact with these partners, and we'll keep you informed as things develop. The most likely re-openings — and the places you'll have the easiest time reaching — are those destinations closer to the US which can be reached by direct flights or simple connections. Think Bonaire, the Bahamas and Cozumel. Other early re-openings will likely take place in destinations such as Dominica, where a relatively small number of visitors are accommodated in smaller, lower-density resorts where exposures are far less than aboard crowded cruise ships and high-rise properties.
For some, the prospect of flying may seem risky, but that perception may be greater than the reality. As we gain a better understanding of how COVID-19 is spread, and how it this spread can be mitigated or eliminate, new protocols are emerging. Airlines are already taking significant steps, including aggressively escalated decontamination routines, and in some cases even keeping center seats vacant to provide passengers with more social distance. Thanks to sophisticated filtration systems and a steady addition of fresh air, airliner cabins are reported to be at least 99.97% free of airborne pathogens. That's far higher than you would encounter on public ground transportation, or even in a supermarket. A combination of new protocols with appropriate personal social distancing, personal protection measures, and increased screening measures may actually make airline travel a lower risk than going out in a public venue close to home.
And then there are the deals. As they reopen, resorts and travel providers are offering some very attractive incentives. These range from waiving change fees and instituting lenient deposit and cancellation terms to offering deep discounts on flights, room nights and packages, along with bonus amenities and perks. In the coming weeks, Caradonna will be sharing a growing number of special deals and incentives through our social media and e-news platforms, and our agents are on call to provide you with the latest information and specials. An added security of working with Caradonna is the fact that we are the only dive travel company in the United States that is covered by a USTOA $1 Million Bond. This is certainly worth noting, particularly if you are considering working with an uninsured dive travel wholesaler.
Travel to the world's more remote and distant diving destinations will likely take longer to resume than places close to home. This news isn't particularly discouraging, given the fact that many divers plan these larger trips a year or two in advance. Activity will pick up once suspended international flights resume, and as stopover destinations lift travel restrictions and layover quarantines. In the meantime, many resorts and liveaboards are already gearing for return business, having devoted downtimes to enhancing safety protocols, performing maintenance and upgrading services and amenities. These providers are also offering significant incentives, lenient change and cancelation policies.
These same lenient and flexible reservation and travel policies are one reason why you might want to consider solidifying plans and creating some tentative travel dates with a 12 to 24-month window. Many of the resorts and liveaboards now affected by COVID-19 interruptions saw cancellations, but also a lot of clients who simply delayed their travel plans. Once these resorts and liveaboards are back in operation, this backlog of suspended travel may fill many available time slots, limiting the number of available new bookings.
Our return to diving and dive travel still involves some variables, and Caradonna will continue to monitor and report on the latest developments. Our agents are available to answer your questions and concerns, and we are also offering a series of weekly online seminars and presentations to keep you informed and ready to go diving.