(English) Looking forward to the ‘New Normal’ in Raja Ampat

  • juillet 23, 2020

Everywhere around the world, the travel and tourism industry are preparing for the time after COVID-19. Like many, also the resorts in Raja Ampat were forced to close down temporarily. At Papua Explorers Resort we have been keeping ourselves busy with conservation work, community support and maintenance tasks. However, our hearts are also with our guests and we cannot wait to welcome them again in our beautiful paradise!  Many wonder how things will work when borders re-open. Which protocols and procedures will have to be followed? What will the ‘new normal’ look like in Raja Ampat?

Raja Ampat Dive Resort Association

Papua Explorers and other resorts in Raja Ampat currently collaborate with the local authorities to establish common guidelines and procedures. These will help all resort operations in Raja Ampat to provide safe and healthy travel conditions for their valued guests and staff. Several reputable dive resorts in Raja Ampat had established the RADRA (Raja Ampat Dive Resort Association) in 2018. The main objective of the organization is to work together towards conservation and sustainable tourism. But especially in these challenging pandemic days, it is also a great platform to offer guidance for the resort operators and together set common standards.

Safety and Hygiene Procedures

Considering the rapidly evolving Covid-19 situation, Papua Explorers and other resorts are taking standards for hygiene and cleanliness very seriously. Therefore, we are implementing the necessary steps to ensure the safety of our guests and staff members. The operational procedures that are currently being established follow the guidelines of local health authorities, the World Health Organization (WHO), Divers Alert Network (DAN) as well as PADI. We will keep monitoring for changes in the official guidelines and regulations and update our operating procedures accordingly.

Characteristics of Dive Resorts in Raja Ampat

It is to note that most Raja Ampat resorts have some things in common that already help prevent the spread of the virus by nature:

  • being located at a remote part of the world
  • a low number of guest accommodation units, and these built apart from one another with a distance
  • no centralized and/or recycled air A/C utilities
  • guest accommodation separated from staff accommodation
  • open air restaurant and open-air lobby
  • guest and staff facilities separated from local community
  • own dive/activities boats and own transfer and supply boats
  • infrequent changeover of guests and staff.

Even though the above characteristics facilitate things a bit, we take great care to ensure a safe and hygienic conduct for each department of our resort. Among many other things, we will install visual information to remind visitors to keep a minimum distance of 1 meter, maintaining hand hygiene and the use of a face mask. We will provide ample hand sanitizer for guests and staff, maintain the air quality, and perform regular cleaning and disinfection of the resort premises.

Before and During Traveling

At the point of writing, the official government requirements for international travelers have not been published in detail. Currently, in July 2020, the borders have not yet been re-opened for tourists and the exact reopening date has not been announced yet. However, we already know that travelers will be required to show PCR or Rapid-Test documents with negative results that are valid for 14 days. Further, every individual who travels is obliged to apply and comply with health protocols. Namely wearing a mask, keeping a distance, and washing hands as a person’s travel criteria. Travelers will likely also be required to download an application for mobile phone devices.

Papua Explorers and other Raja Ampat resorts will additionally send each guest a health declaration form to be completed before travelling. The purpose of this is to minimize risk from the start, by ensuring that guests are healthy before they start traveling and before coming to Raja Ampat.

Generally, before traveling, we advise each guest to check in detail the requirements for their home country, the countries they are traveling through and the latest regulations from the Indonesian government. Each traveler is personally responsible for adhering to the regulations.

Transfers and Check-in

As usual we will be greeting our guests on arrival at the exit of Sorong airport. Our staff will be wearing facemasks and will be providing hand sanitizer to the guests. Although it had been a nice gesture, they will be instructed to avoid handshakes for the time being.

It is important that all guests are transferred to the resort in the safest way possible by avoiding public places as much as possible during the transfer. Therefore, we transport our guests in private vehicles within Sorong, as we have always been doing. As always, we recommend using our scheduled boat transfer from Sorong to the resort and back, because it is with our own speedboat with only resort guests and staff joining. Our days with scheduled transfers are Wednesday and Sunday. Please have a look at our info & rates document for further details.

On the transfer boat, which is open air, we will ensure adequate spacing between passengers, and also provide hand sanitizer again. Passengers who do not have a facemask will be provided one. Each guest will be given a personal refillable water bottle that is also a nice take-home souvenir.

Upon arrival at the resort, body temperature measurements will be taken of each passenger. Temperature checks will also be done daily for guests and staff. Incoming luggage will be immediately disinfected upon arrival. Further, Papua Explorers will ensure that guests are given an extra, detailed briefing about the procedures regarding Covid-19. We will provide information to guests on the potential risk of Covid-19 and advise on preventive hygiene measures. Most importantly: keeping the hands clean, wearing a facemask when possible, avoid touching the face area and keep paying attention to keep your distance.

Staff

All our staff members will adhere to the latest guidance and hygiene protocols. They will be well trained to handle situations that may occur, and we have confidence in their abilities. Each resort will appoint a trained officer to monitor all procedures are followed and will be responsible for all pandemic controls within the resort. Every resort will ensure that all workers understand about preventing COVID transmission.

Papua Explorers will provide detailed information to staff on the potential risk of Covid-19 and give thorough training on preventive hygiene measures. Staff coming from Sorong must do a Rapid test before coming on the private boat. Generally, we ensure staff are in good health before coming to the workplace and also check their temperature. Further we will ensure they adhere to the same hygiene standards as guests – at work and also afterwards. They will frequently wash their hands with soap and use hand sanitizer, use a mask, keep a distance from others, and avoid touching the face area.

To prevent staff infection, staff should stay at the resort as much as possible and must have permission of the HR department to visit Sorong or another city. They must adhere to all health and hygiene guidance while outside of the resort.

Various Departments

Apart from the general regulations for staff as mentioned above, we have set up rules for each resort department specifically. From housekeeping, over kitchen and restaurant, all the way to the laundry, each department will follow the procedures for a safe and hygienic resort operation.

Please note that the spa facilities and massage service at the resorts have to remain suspended until further notice. It is impossible to keep a distance when getting a massage unfortunately.

Luckily our Papua Explorers restaurant is very spacious, so we can facilitate social distancing by providing seating with ample space in between. The meal service will be provided in a safe and hygienic manner. I.e. we installed a glass screen above the buffet to avoid food contamination and staff equipped with gloves and facemasks will add the desired dishes onto the guest’s plates. Obviously, we will require everyone who enters the dining area to wash their hands with soap with running water. All equipment, surfaces and furniture will be cleaned and sanitized after use. Further regulations are in place and will be outlined in the resort briefing to the guests.

Diving and Snorkeling

Diving and snorkeling are activities that require our special attention and care in order to avoid infection. It involves the use of various equipment items (some of which breathe through) and their preparation, as well as being together in a relatively small space sometimes. With guidance of PADI, DAN and other organizations we are in the process of optimizing our dive operation to minimize the infection risk.

Some examples of precautionary measures we take are:

  • Briefings will be done in reduced numbers. The layout of the briefing location meets the physical distance rules of at least 1 meter.
  • Guests are encouraged to bring their own diving or snorkeling equipment, if possible. Staff and guests must wash or sanitize their hands after touching their dive or snorkel equipment. Rental equipment will be thoroughly disinfected after each use, as well as at the end of the rental period.
  • All divers should preferably use defogging products to defog their mask, the use of saliva is discouraged. After a dive or snorkel sessions divers and snorkelers must not use buckets to rinse masks: rinse them in open water instead. Similarly, divers and snorkelers must look after their own masks, placing them in their own designated individual container/area.
  • Distancing rules must be respected also when divers enter and exit the water. Respecting distance on the surface may be difficult in the presence of current: the use of tag lines or lines secured to a floating buoy, with spacing indicated with tape or color bands may assist in maintaining the appropriate distances.

The above are some examples of precautions, but of course there are further aspects to pay attention to. All details will be outlined in our operating procedures and presented to our guests in the dive center briefing upon arrival.

Suspected Covid-19 Procedures

If the Covid-19 symptoms are displayed by a guest or staff member, it is important to maintain infection control and commence with immediate isolation of suspected infected persons. The patient will be relocated to a designated isolation area. The patient should isolate himself or herself until a clinical team arrives to transfer the patient to appropriate health facility for testing and initial care. Patients can also safely transport themselves to a Covid-19 treatment center if applicable.

Transport to quarantine and/or a medical facility and costs for any quarantine are the responsibility of the guest. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that each guest have a travel health insurance that covers emergency evacuation.

Summary and Outlook

We hope that this article gives you an idea of what we are doing to ensure the safety and health of our guests and staff. As you can see Papua Explorers and other Raja Ampat resorts as well as local authorities are taking this very seriously. We will publish the official operating procedures document once it is finalized. Changes and updates may be applied.

A certain risk always remains when travelling, but we are doing our best to minimize it for you. It will certainly be rewarding to travel to a remote region, enjoy the magnificent nature and support its communities in the process.

We hope you will have confidence in our efforts and visit us soon. We already look forward to welcoming you! If you are ready to plan your next trip, please contact our friendly reservations department for assistance.



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