On November 24, 2015, the U.S. State Department issued a worldwide travel alert for U.S. citizens traveling abroad. This generalized alert warns of the possible risks of travel due to increased terrorist threats. This alert is scheduled to expire on February 24, 2016. The alert specifically identifies public transportation and major tourist sites as potential targets.
Rustic Pathways' program operations team is aggressively monitoring the global and local situations in collaboration with International SOS, the U.S. State Department, and the Overseas Security Advisory Committee. On a local level, our country teams are working with local agencies and trusted partners to ensure we remain aware of current conditions and make adjustments to safeguard students and staff.
Rustic Pathways only uses privately contracted transportation services for our students and staff worldwide.
Although we are largely focused on cultural immersion in off-the-beaten path locations, we do visit some tourist sites. Prior to visiting these sites, we work with local law enforcement and government agencies to ensure we remain aware of any heightened alerts or potential threats. In these instances, we will forego the site and do another activity instead. We have flexibility built into our programs to allow these types of changes in the name of safety.
If you have questions or concerns, please contact us at +440.975.9691.
What is the Zika virus? The Zika virus is an emerging infectious disease that is transmitted to people through mosquito bites. The mosquitos that transmit Zika are active during the daytime.
Who is at risk? Zika can infect any traveler to tropical areas of Central America, South America, and the Caribbean, but symptoms are mild for most people. Pregnant women, however, are at the center of concern since the virus can be spread to their unborn baby.
Where can I find more information about the virus, symptoms, treatment, and protection measures? Rustic Pathways relies on the Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization, International SOS, and other trusted resources for reliable and updated information.
What does Rustic Pathways do to prevent infection? Rustic Pathways takes aggressive measures to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses. We create physical barriers such as screened doors and windows at our accommodations, provide mosquito nets in tropical areas, and remove areas of standing water wherever possible since this is where mosquitos breed. We educate our participants in the proper use of insect repellent and recommend wearing long pants and long sleeves when working outdoors. These self-care actions are reinforced throughout our programs.
Is Rustic Pathways making any immediate changes to their programs? No, all travel warnings are directed to pregnant women, and therefore, aren’t relevant to our typical clientele. We stand behind our preventative measures and in-country education. If the advice of the CDC, International SOS, or WHO changes, we will certainly make any and all necessary changes to ensure our students, chaperones, and staff remain safe.
Rustic Pathways understands that risk is an inherent part of our programs. We visit remote destinations, expose our groups to unfamiliar surroundings, and encourage personal growth and development through new experiences. We also understand that each traveler is an individual with his or her own distinctive perspective and limitations. Whether trying new foods, summiting a mountain peak, or exploring undeveloped areas, Rustic Pathways believes risk management is a fundamental component for positive transformations. Our passion and commitment to safeguarding our students and staff is driven by strong leadership and executed successfully throughout our ground teams and partners.
Risk management is a process that involves an ongoing commitment to identifying and assessing risks, developing actions to reduce their occurrence or severity, and implementing adjustments as situations change. Rustic Pathways adheres to this lifecycle throughout all aspects of our business and formulates management plans to mitigate risk through prevention and to guide our critical response team when needed. Our operational risk management commitment occurs on three distinctive levels: company-wide, country management, and program operations.
At the company-wide level, Rustic Pathways employs a Safety and Risk Management Director to oversee the development and implementation of the Company Risk Management Plan and the Critical Incident Protocols. This director is also charged with reviewing all Country Risk Management Plans (CRMP’s), Program Risk Management Plans (PRMP’s), and Natural Disaster Plans. Moreover, the Safety and Risk Management Director is responsible for coordinating and conducting activity and accommodation safety audits, reviewing incident reports, ensuring medical and mental health screening meets or exceeds industry standards, and providing Country Directors with the support needed to manage local risk and safety initiatives. This director remains active in the risk management profession to ensure Rustic Pathways maintains its leading role in industry safety and best practices.
The next layer of risk management occurs at the individual country level and is overseen by each of our full-time Country Directors. Our Country Directors, in conjunction with our country management teams, develop Country Risk Management Plans, Program Risk Management Plans, and Natural Disaster Plans. These plans evaluate potential risks, identify precautionary measures, detail management procedures, and provide contingency or evacuation strategies for each region and program offered. Country Directors are also charged with developing an intelligence network to monitor on-the-ground conditions by utilizing local staff knowledge, international reporting agencies, and the U.S. State Department’s Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC). Country Directors also oversee the hiring and training of local staff based on company-wide requirements for quality and professionalism. These include, but are not limited to, background checks, age requirements, medical certifications, and in-country training workshops specific to risk management and safety. Our Country Directors and Human Resources Department also employ our flight leaders who staff our international group flights originating from the United States to our destination countries.
On a third and critical level, risk management occurs on each of our programs through the leadership and professionalism of our program leaders. During training, our program leaders gain a thorough understanding of the Program Risk Management Plans for the trips they will be leading including specific Critical Incident Protocols to guide their actions if an incident was to occur. Staff members are trained to ensure students remain compliant with the Rustic Pathways Student Pledge, which outlines the rules governing student behavior on programs. Staff also conducts in-person medical screenings with all students at the beginning of their program to understand individual needs. If an illness or incident occurs, program leaders submit documented reports, which are reviewed by their Country Director and the Safety and Risk Management Director. In doing so, Rustic Pathways maintains a three-tiered approach allowing effective communication sharing from bottom to top of the organizational chart.
Our students and parents also have a role in maintaining the safety of our programs. We rely on our students to understand and comply with the rules of our programs and follow their program leaders’ instructions. Our Student Pledge is distributed to all students after their enrollment is accepted and is reviewed again in detail at the beginning of each program. We expect and rely on parents and students to fully and accurately complete our forms before the program — in particular, any medical or mental health information that can influence a student’s enjoyment or that of their fellow travelers. Information from our medical forms is kept private and used to properly screen students to ensure students are placed on an appropriate program.