Rick Steves Europe scrambles to cope with COVID-19

Following safe practices to contain the spread of the virus, Rick Steves held last week’s “all hands” meeting for Travel Center staff outdoors, during which he stressed keeping the focus on health and safety, and maintaining clear, straight and caring communication with customers. (Photo courtesy Rick Steves)

“It’s overwhelming what’s going on,” Edmonds resident and European travel expert Rick Steves said in a Saturday morning phone interview.  “Europe is locking down just like we are. A lot of dreams are dashed.”

Steves has cancelled all tours departing through April 19, closed his Edmonds Travel Center to the public, and arranged for as many of his staff as possible to work from home.

“I understand that after hospitals and schools we are about the biggest employer in town with around 130 working in our 4th Avenue Travel Center,” he explained.  “My clear responsibility now is to take care of our employees, be a good corporate citizen in Edmonds by not contributing to the spread of the virus, and to clearly, quickly and ethically make sure all of the travelers signed up on Rick Steves tours will know that they will be treated honestly and generously.

“Our top priority is keeping our staff, customers, and community safe and healthy,” he continued.  “For guidance, we’re listening to the advice of Gov. Inslee, other elected officials, and the scientists and experts who are advising them.”

To this end, Rick Steves Europe is taking the following steps:

  • Requiring anyone on staff who can do so to work from home until March 27;
  • Closing the Rick Steves Europe Travel Center starting Monday, March 16 until further notice;
  • Canceling the Rick Steves annual Travel Festival, scheduled for April 4, and all other travel talks for the public until further notice;
  • Canceling all Rick Steves tours through April 19 (or longer, if needed).

According to Steves, approximately 25,000 people have signed up on 2020 tours so far this year; about half of these are on tours departing this spring.

“We’ve earned the trust of our tour members, and we’re determined to be the ‘good guys’ in treating them fairly and generously in this time of crisis – even if we wind up losing revenue,’ he continued.  “We’ve cancelled all of our tours with start dates through April 19, 2020 and are providing 100% refunds to anyone booked on those tours. Tour members with questions can email tour@ricksteves.com for assistance and visit our Coronavirus FAQ page. Our Tour Center staff – most of whom are now working from home – are answering all emails.”

In keeping with practicing social distancing and taking measures to minimize the spread of the disease, Steves opted to hold his most recent “all hands” staff meeting outdoors in the back yard of one of his downtown buildings, rather than in the confines of the office.

“The sun actually came out as if on schedule as I reviewed with my staff our stance in this rapidly changing crisis,” he related. “Those rays of sunshine just seemed to say ‘this too shall pass.’ Now, rather than selling travel, our focus is on health, safety, making sure our staff is taken care of, and giving our disappointed traveling public clear, straight, and caring communication as their monthly paychecks are threatened and travel dreams are put on hold. I assured my staff that we are strong enough to survive this crisis and that, while the short term will be difficult, we are determined and able to keep everyone working and come out of this strong and ready to put the train back on the tracks.”

Steves stresses that this is part of his vision for the long haul.

“Someday this virus will be old news and it’s both right and good business sense to focus now on taking care of our staff and our customers as well as be a conscientious business leader as our community fights this crisis,” he said.

— By Larry Vogel






16 Replies to “Rick Steves Europe scrambles to cope with COVID-19”

  1. Good plan! Thank you for being such trusted travel leaders. To all of you at the Rick Steves travel community!



    1. I commend you on your response and positivity. My husband and I watched your show faithfully on PBS and were always pleased when you did a program on a place where we had been.

      I am happy that the opinion I had formed of you from only watching your travelogue show is holding true. Congratulation for being an honest businessman and employer.


  2. Good job Mr. Steves. It is unfortunate. What about kicking off a domestic travel guide experience in the meantime? I personally know that people just want to leave town. I might be scrapping a business trip to Germany in exchange for a vacay in Maine.


  3. Rick Steves, you’re the man!! Being ethically sound in dealing with your customers and staff is what we expect of decent people. While airline and cruise businesses are not following your example, you should be commended for such good practices. I love to watch all your travel shows and will continue to do so.


  4. Rick Steves, you and your multi-faceted travel company have always had my admiration, for focusing on a consistent mission over many years and varied business activities. Also for your top quality products, and your honest, generous and upbeat way of doing business. This has only grown during this year’s travel crisis. Sadly I needed to cancel a long-planned and lengthy spring trip to Italy, including a Rick Steves Tour, and over a few different phone calls, each of your staff assisted me in a friendly, well-informed and effective way, meeting my needs.


  5. We all applaud you, Mr. Steves! From the first moment I began watching your exciting travel shows on PBS, and reading your excellent and practical guidebooks, on to listening to your podcasts — I intuitively knew that you were, and you still are, an ethical person and businessman. I’m still saving up for an extensive trip to Europe (not the weeklong trips I’ve done in the past), and that multi city trip will be happening through Rick Steves Travel … after this pandemic is over and the panic has dissipated. Many of us who have improved the QUALITY of our life experiences by following your seasoned travel advice agree with your prediction: “This too shall pass.” We love your embrace of all humanity. Thank you now and into the future!

    Chantal Reve


  6. Smart move Rick!! Taking a loss now will lay the seeds for the future! We’re getting at the age where we like to travel with you right from our armchairs and enjoy all of them. Just recently returned from the Dominican Republic and were not impressed by the airport’s prevention methods with the people checking in and out then . Wishing you all the best, Peter and Sophia.


  7. My wife and I took our first tour with Rick Steves last year and loved it. We are heartbroken that this had to happen, but applaud you for making the difficult decision.


  8. Rick, you are the kind of Leader we need at this difficult turning point — not just in Travel! You portrait
    strength, compassion, decisiveness and the view for the future — thank you!
    My own anticipated trip to Germany will now be on hold.


  9. We’ve enjoyed Rick Steve’s tours in the past, and applaud the actions he’s taken. His future will be a must for us when this passes. Thank you!!


  10. Rick is a class act by any measure. He could have built his company anywhere, but he elected to stay right here in Edmonds, his hometown~ and we’re lucky he did! I’ve heard him speak in person a few times, and it’s always an illuminating experience.


  11. Have watched you for years and purchased many books and backpacks….just want yo say thank you and we will keep supporting you.


  12. Your response during this crisis is both responsible and fair to all affected and has won me over as a new, future client.


  13. Thank you for being a beacon of right and just behavior.No buisness can exist without it’s hard working employees and your sensitivity to this pandemic is as always visionary.Stay high when they go low.


  14. As usual, Rick simply knows how to do the right thing. We are so fortunate that Edmonds is his home, and his clients have to appreciate the integrity and wisdom he is exhibiting during this time. He is truly a local gem.


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