Coronavirus and Meetings
to see Northstar Meetings Group’s comprehensive and continuing coverage of how coronavirus is affecting meetings.
Eight million travel-related jobs have been lost as of May 1, according to the U.S. Travel Association. In total, the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the travel industry is expected to be nine times worse than that of 9/11. But restrictions are now beginning to ease across the country, and hotels and businesses are opening their doors once more. To help the industry continue on a path towards recovery, the U.S. Travel Association has developed detailed guidelines on how travel-related businesses can continue to operate while keeping customers and employees safe.
"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 15-page document, titled "Travel in the New Normal," was developed in consultation with public health experts. It also draws on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the White House. The guidelines apply to all sectors of the travel industry, including transportation, cruises, air travel, lodging, vacation rentals, dining, attractions/entertainment, and meetings and events.
The new guidelines focus on six key areas:
- Travel businesses must modify their operations to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. This may include introducing new employee practices and redesigning public spaces.
- Touchless or low-touch solutions should be implemented whenever possible, such as options for contactless ticketing, check-in and payment.
- Enhanced sanitation procedures should be tailored to each business. Examples include modifying business hours, providing hand sanitizer in public areas and developing new training for employees.
- Travel businesses should also adopt health-screening measures. Employees with possible COVID-19 symptoms will need to be isolated. Resources to help customers monitor and screen their own health should also be provided.
- Companies should establish a set of procedures that align with CDC guidance in the event that an employee or customer tests positive for the virus.
- When serving food and beverages, travel organizations should follow industry best practices to maintain employee and customer health. The U.S. Travel Association recommends following COVID-19 guidelines from the Federal Drug Administration and the National Restaurant Association.
"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," said Dow. "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."
According to Dow, the effort to produce these guidelines should in itself serve as "a model for collaboration between the business and medical communities that forges a path toward healing both the public health and the economy."
But as U.S. Travel points out in the document itself, containing the coronavirus is a shared responsibility -- and travel customers must take the guidance as seriously as the businesses themselves, and together adopt new travel practices to protect the health and safety of those around them.
The guidelines, which can be read in their entirety here, already have the support of more than 30 travel organizations, including Airports Council International - North America, the American Hotel and Lodging Association, Destinations International and the Meetings Mean Business Coalition.