Update as of March 19, 2020

 
Dear Austral Group community,
 
The global implications of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to impact each of us and our lives on a daily basis. During this time of massive disruption, we share a commitment to support our employees, clients and our service providers. Like many industries, the education and travel sectors have been hit hard, especially small and medium enterprises, and we are doing our best to maintain business continuity for Austral Group and our employees until the situation improves.
 
Our contingency plan is to ensure a safe environment for our clients and employees, and I would like to share the updates that are taking place at Austral Group:
  • Suspension of Travel. All Austral travel programs to all destinations through April 30 have been cancelled or postponed to a later date. For programs scheduled after May 1, 2020 we continue to monitor the health and safety risks of travel and social interactions, as well as government-imposed travel restrictions to determine if programs will need to be re-scheduled to a later date. If you have a future trip scheduled with us, and you would like to discuss the option of re-scheduling or postponing, please schedule a call with us as soon as possible.
  • Remote Work and Communication. As of Monday, March 16 all Austral Group team members are working remotely from home as part of our social distancing efforts. During this time, our commitment is to deliver the same rapid response and high level of service as always and without disruption. We are utilizing Zoom video calls, and our team is also available by email, Slack, WhatsApp, Skype or nearly any other voice/video platform that we’re able to access. You may reach us at any time via one of these platforms or use our communications calendar to schedule a call with our team.
  • Support and Flexibility. We are asking our team to limit travel and avoid unnecessary social situations in an effort to slow transmission of the virus. We provide paid sick leave for any Austral team member showing symptoms, and also for employees to support family members who may be affected. In addition, we are honoring payments and work agreements with our non-permanent, flex staff located in each destination we serve, even for work not performed due to trip cancellations.
 
Beyond our direct team, Austral Group is exploring ways to provide greater support and service to the local communities in the destinations in which we operate. We are all in this together and need to look out for one another.
  • Virtual Learning Experiences. As a direct response to limited travel options and trip cancellations, Austral Group is creating online and virtual learning opportunities as a complement to the academic curriculum. This approach is new for Austral Group and we anticipate our ability to roll out virtual learning on a bigger and more robust scale within a few months. Some of the virtual learning options we offer include:

- Presentations with Q&A - discussions and Q&A sessions with business executives.

- Business Challenge - a virtual version of our Live Business Challenge whereby a C-level Executive presents an actual business problem for students to examine and recommend solutions.

- Online Roundtable - students select from a menu of topics to participate in a small group breakout session with an expert to discuss a topical issue. Limited to groups of 10 students per breakout room.

- Business Panel - We bring together a panel of executives around a business theme for an interactive discussion with your students. This may be a multi-national panel with speakers connecting from different countries.

- Fireside chat - an informal conversation or interview between your faculty and a business executive or industry expert.

- Consulting Projects - a virtual version of student consulting teams who interact and work directly with senior executives to solve real-world business problems. This in-depth activity may require 2-4 months of student project work.

 
Most of these options can be accompanied with an academic grade and/or participation component under the supervision of your professors.
 
Virtual learning is a powerful tool that will be offered as part of every Austral Group experience going forward. That said, we firmly believe in the irreplaceable richness of travel and in-person interaction to foster learning, bring people together, and to cultivate hearts and minds. When you are ready to travel again, we will be ready to serve you.
  • Refunds and Credits for Cancelled Trips. Due to Austral Group’s policy of booking and paying for travel services well in advance to secure favorable rates and conditions with our logistics providers, Austral Group may be subject to the terms and conditions of our providers’ contracts and cancellation policies. We are working hard with our providers to secure refunds, however this may not be possible in all cases. Please reach out to your Austral Group representative or contact our Client Care department for details on your specific situation.
 
Our team has been working tirelessly to support everyone who has a cancelled or postponed trip to resolve their situation as soon as possible and to the best of our ability.
  • Celebrating 15 Years at Austral Group! On a positive note, Austral Group is delighted to celebrate our 15-year anniversary in designing and delivering high-impact study programs. Although we have been completely focused on responding to this difficult situation, I want to take a moment to thank our hard-working and talented team for their extraordinary efforts and dedication - I am proud of and humbled by the great work you do.
 
We appreciate your continued support, patience, trust and enduring positivity as we navigate through this challenging and unpredictable moment. We will continue to assess the situation as it evolves and proactively communicate any impacts and changes.
 
In the meantime, be kind to each other, be mindful and cautious of your health and of those around you, and thank you for being a part of the Austral community.
 
Sincerely,


 
Shaun Sheffield
Executive Director