The U.S. travel industry wants to restore traveler confidence with new health and safety measures. A 15-page report outlining hygienic best practice is a start, but more is needed for it to become standard across all sectors of the industry.
The U.S. Travel Association submitted health-focused guidelines for travel businesses to the White House and state governors on Monday, hoping to provide best practice and help kick-start a gradual reopening of the travel industry in the U.S.
The guidelines — entitled “Travel in the New Normal” — were developed in consultation with medical and infectious disease experts and focus on keeping both employees and customers safe. The trade group hopes with its 15-page report to provide a roadmap for travel to resume as safely as possible as U.S. locations begin opening up.
“We want political leaders and the public alike to see that our industry is setting a very high standard for reducing the risk of coronavirus in our businesses, and that the practices in place to achieve that standard are consistent through every phase of the travel experience,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “As travel reopens, travelers need the confidence that safety measures are in place from their departure to their return home.”
The guidelines’ objectives are two-fold: Ensure workers can get back to work safely, and restore consumers’ trust in the safety of travel. On the first objective, the trade group says the job rebound is vital; it estimates eight million travel jobs have been lost as of May 1.
There are six main areas the guidelines outlined: modifying practices and public spaces to protect employees and customers; touchless solutions to eliminate or reduce viral spread; enhanced sanitation procedures; increased health and screening measures, including isolation of workers with symptoms; adhering to CDC guidance in cases where employees test positive for Covid-19; and following best practice as it relates to food and beverage service.
The full guidelines contain examples in each of the six areas above. Notable examples that would be a departure from pre-pandemic norms include the installation of transparent screens in customers service settings, widespread wearing of PPE, encouraging physical distancing in crowded areas and public spaces, touch free solutions across the entire trip ecosystem, and amending business hours to allow for more rigorous cleaning and sanitization.
U.S. Travel noted that it is not indicating the all clear to travel with these guidelines: “We will not encourage people to travel until public health experts and authorities have made it clear that it’s the right time to do so,” Dow said. “Our industry’s focus is on preparing for that moment, and on demonstrating that our preparations are comprehensive and informed by the counsel of top experts.”
But with these guidelines, it hopes to show that the sectors of the industry — including hotels, airports, attractions, restaurants, meeting venues, and cruise — have been working together to make sure that traveler and employee safety can be improved across the board. On a media call with reporters on Monday afternoon, vice president of policy Tori Barnes said that U.S. Travel expects that the guidelines will evolve as CDC and White House guidance does too. “We can continue to have industry-wide, harmonized language and work together to ensure that travelers will start to move again.”
While much of the guidelines do read as common sense after months of living in paranoid lockdown, their effectiveness seem to lie in how broadly and strictly they can be implemented across the travel industry. In a sense, if travelers feel safe in one part of their journey such as a flight, but not in another, then the effort is unlikely to restore consumer confidence across the board.
Dow added on the call with reporters that he felt travelers would have a role to play in highlighting travel companies that are following the guidelines — and those that weren’t.
“One of the great forces … will be the traveling public themselves. The traveling public is going to say [on social media] ‘I visited this location and I was so impressed by what they were doing.’ And perhaps another they may say could do a few extra things. So I think you’re going to see everyone working together on this because it is so serious and so important to get people traveling again.”
See the guidelines below:
Photo credit: A pilot wearing a face-mask prepares to board an aircraft. Michael Probst / Associated Press