A lack of government communication when it comes to the restart of the travel industry has made it difficult for consumer confidence to grow, and it’s time for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other government organizations to start addressing it.
That’s according to a letter ASTA’s president and CEO Zane Kerby sent to Director Robert R. Redfield of the CDC on Monday.
In the letter, ASTA writes that because of the “catastrophic impact” that COVID-19 has had on the travel agency community (it expects to lose at least $7.7 billion this year, according to ASTA surveys), a heavier emphasis has to be placed on restoring consumer confidence in the travel system.
“For the livelihood of these Americans, their families, their clients and the traveling public, it is critical that the travel industry rebound as quickly as possible,” Kerby wrote, explaining that messages from government health officials will outweigh those coming from other sources, including those from travel suppliers.
“For the federal government, this means the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) must have a central role in formulating specific guidelines for travel in the near future.”
The CDC’s guidance so far, Kerby wrote, “has been uneven at best,” with a No Sail Order in March for the cruise industry but very little guidance on other segments of the travel industry, which has “unquestionably” inhibited the revival of the industry.
The letter outlines four goals that the CDC, along with other government organizations, can take now to move toward that goal:
1. Set clear standards across all travel modes.
ASTA is asking the CDC to tell suppliers in each segment was steps they need to take to reopen and restart, which ASTA believes “will supercharge the nascent travel recovery” by allowing consumers to start booking with confidence.
2. Prioritize the restart of the cruise industry.
ASTA is asking for specific timelines for the CDC to release to restart the cruise industry.
3. Prioritize passport processing.
According to the State Department, U.S. passport services have started to resume after the “unprecedented challenge” that COVID-19 presented. Just 11 passport agencies have entered Phase One of the service restart. For travel to really get back on the track to normalcy, ASTA urges the CDC and the State Deptartment “to make the restoration of normal passport processing operations a priority.”
4. Prioritize the resumption of international travel.
Subject to health, safety, and security measures, ASTA urges “the Administration to focus the diplomatic assets of the U.S. government toward working with governments across the globe to restore a free flow of travel across borders.” Currently, the State Deptartment still has a Level 4: Do Not Travel Global Health Advisory, which has been active since March 31.
“Taken together with the financial relief provided to travel business by the U.S. Congress and the private sector doing its part, we believe the steps outlined above will help instill consumer confidence and get America’s economy, and its intrepid travelers, moving again.”