The U.S. Travel Association, in partnership with suppliers across the industry, on Monday sent a set of proposed health and safety guidelines to the White House and state governors that it says should be used as guidelines for travel-related businesses as the country emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Anchored in information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the “Travel in the New Normal” proposal describes the measures the industry should follow to reduce the risk of COVID-19 when travel begins picking up.
The report was put together with input from all segments of the $2.6 billion travel industry—hotels, resorts, airports, airlines, attractions, restaurants, retail, rental cars, meeting venues, event producers, travel advisors, cruise lines, and vacation rentals—including associations such as CLIA, ASTA, USTOA, and more.
“There’s a strong commitment to make sure we get travelers moving again and the best way we can do that is to make sure they have consistent guidelines,” Tori Emerson Barnes, Executive Vice President for Public Affairs and Policy, U.S. Travel Association, said during a conference call on Monday.
While some travel segments might add their own protocols, like airlines requiring passengers to wear masks, the guidelines will serve as a comprehensive plan for the entire industry.
The goal, Roger Dow, president and CEO for U.S. Travel Association said, was to demonstrate leadership and consistency across the industry, and, when the official clearance is given to travel, give the public the assurance that they can do so safety.
“Travelers should know confidently that the entire travel ecosystem is focusing on these safety measures going forward,” he said.
Travel-related businesses have been affected disproportionately by COVID-19, Dow said. The industry is estimated to have lost eight million jobs as of the first of May, and the travel-related economic impact of coronavirus is projected to be nine times worse than 9/11.
Dow predicts that healthy and safety will become new priorities, like security did post-9/11.
“Health and medical advice will be at the forefront of everything we do. Health and safety officers may even be a new class of executives, working for large organizations as medical advisors,” he said.
Dr. Michael Parkinson, former president of American College of Preventive Medicine, who was one of the chief medical personnel contributing to the report, said the layered approach is designed to be both achievable and effective for every travel business, adding that the guidance will evolve as more is learned about the virus. Dr. Parkinson also said the elderly and those with chronic conditions like Diabetes should still avoid non-essential travel.
“Travel in the New Normal” is focused on six main areas:
1. Travel businesses should adapt operations, modify employee practices, and/or redesign public spaces to help protect employees and customers. That may include reinforcing hand hygiene, utilizing personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and gloves, and installing physical barriers, such as transparent screens to provide proper separation between customers and employees. Physical distancing should also be encouraged.
2. Travel businesses should consider implementing touchless solutions, where practical, to limit the opportunity for virus transmission while also enabling a positive travel experience, including by adopting contactless technologies or procedures for ticketing, identification, check-in, payment for goods and services, and automated ordering and pick-up for food services.
3. Every segment of the travel industry should adopt and implement enhanced sanitation procedures specifically designed to combat the transmission of COVID-19, from a policy implementing more frequent hand washing by all employees, to sanitizing more frequently.
4. Travel businesses should promote health screening measures for employees and isolate workers with possible COVID-19 symptoms and provide health resources to customers.
5. Travel businesses should establish a set of procedures aligned with CDC guidance should an employee test positive for COVID-19.
6. While COVID-19 is not a food borne illness, travel businesses should follow best practices in food and beverage service to promote health of employees and customers. When serving food and beverages, travel businesses should follow the FDA’s guidelines.