Redesigning public spaces, touchless technology and enhanced sanitization methods are just a few changes travellers to the United States may see down the road as America moves into the stages of re-opening its travel economy.
In response to the unprecedented challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Travel Association has released a set of guidelines for minimizing the impact of COVID-19 as the United States moves to ease its restrictions.
The guidance, called “Travel in the New Normal,” was submitted to the White House and the governors of U.S. states and territories on Monday (May 4th).
Its contents are based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the White House.
In a media teleconference on Monday, Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, said the goal of the document is to demonstrate leadership to elected officials and public health authorities who will decide when, how and under what conditions travel businesses are allowed to reopen across America.
“The new normal will be health and safety,” Dow told reporters over the phone.
Much like the security measures that were introduced after 9/11, the COVID-19 pandemic may dramatically change the way U.S. travel companies engage with employees, locals and tourists.
The virus will push many businesses to make health and safety a top priority within their operations, Dow said, as companies adapt to their new reality.
For example: professionals from the medical community may find themselves leading new health and safety departments at hotels.
“Health and safety will be with us for as long as I can see it,” Dow said, stating that COVID-19 preventative methods (such as wearing masks) will likely evolve over time.
Restoring consumer confidence
A secondary goal of the document is to restore consumer confidence in the travel process, in the hope that travel demand will rebound quickly, Dow noted.
“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.”
The guidance focuses on six key areas for U.S. travel businesses:
- Adapting operations and/or redesigning spaces to help protect employees and customers, such as reinforcing handwashing, installing physical barriers and limiting staff-customer contact.
- Incorporating touchless solutions for ticketing, identification, check-in, payment, and automated ordering to prevent the virus from spreading.
- Boosting sanitation methods, such as providing hand sanitizer in public spaces, modifying business hours to sanitize, enhancing handwashing policies.
- Enhancing health screening measures for employees, as well as installing COVID-19 signs/communication to educate customers about health safety.
- Creating a checklist aligned with CDC guidance on ways to respond to positive cases of COVID-19 when they occur.
- Following best practices around food and beverage handling.
Upgrading health and safety infrastructures, presumably, carries a hefty price tag. However, Dow said the CEOs of major companies that he’s spoken with say it’s a cost they’ll bear.
“The cost of not doing it is far more of a problem,” he said.
Dow said the document, which was prepared in consultation with medical experts and all sectors of the U.S. travel industry, “can 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.”
“This collaboration is something that should help our customers, our businesses and the industry as a whole to move beyond the most challenging period any of us has ever faced,” he said.
The future of U.S. trade shows?
Monday’s teleconference also touched on conventions and trade shows, which, despite being the backbone of how business is done, “will be the last to come back," Dow said.
“The trade show community is going very deep on sanitation standards,” said Dow, noting how trade shows and conventions had significant input on the association’s report.
The U.S. Travel Association is a national, non-profit organization representing and advocating for all components of the U.S. travel industry.
The update unfolded as U.S. states plan to ease restrictions on businesses after U.S. President Donald Trump said that as many as 100,000 Americans could die in the pandemic.
The COVID-19 virus has infected more than 1.1 million people in the U.S. and killed nearly 68,000, according to the latest data released by Johns Hopkins University.
Click here to read the “Travel in the New Normal” document in its entirety.
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