What new guidelines mean for the future of US travel

May 5 2020, 10:13 am

When exactly the world will be permitted to travel again remains uncertain. However, various figures within the United States’ travel industry have established a new set of guidelines for companies and businesses to follow once restrictions are lifted.

In collaboration with medical experts and an assortment of other businesses and organizations, the US travel industry has submitted a report to the White House and governors outlining guidelines for travel-related companies.

The report provides insights that are designed to ensure the safety of employees and customers as the country gradually begins to ease travel restrictions.

The document, entitled “Travel in the New Normal,” describes the procedures that the US travel industry will follow to diminish the risk of coronavirus contamination and communicate clear instructions to travelers throughout every portion of the travel process.

“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,” Roger Dow, president and CEO of the US Travel Association, said in a statement posted to the organization’s website.

“As travel reopens, travelers need the confidence that safety measures are in place from their departure to their return home.”

While ensuring the safety and health of customers and staff is of the utmost importance for businesses across the travel industry, Dow explains that the secondary goal of the “Travel in the New Normal” guideline is to rebuild the level of trust and confidence that individuals have in the travel process. Starting there will ensure a quick rebound in demand, allowing the industry to recover that much faster, he states.

“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,” he continued. “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.”

“Travel in the New Normal” outlines six main approaches:

  • Travel businesses should modify processes and employment practices and redesign public areas to help protect staff and customers.
  • Travel businesses should consider contactless services where feasible to avoid physical contact.
  • Travel businesses should adopt and execute enhanced sterilization procedures.
  • Travel businesses should promote health screening measures for workers and isolate those who present potential coronavirus-related symptoms. They should also provide health resources to customers.
  • Travel businesses should implement a set of protocols that align with CDC guidelines should workers test positive for coronavirus.
  • Travel businesses should follow best practices for food and beverage services to promote the health of staff and customers.

In a May 4 press call conducted by Dow and Dr. Michael Parkinson, senior medical director at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Dow explained that the guidelines were created in collaboration with a variety of experts, including specialists in infectious disease and preventive medicine, whose insights helped to determine how organizations could confront coronavirus throughout the entirety of the travel process.

Dow described the report as a “layered approach to safety” to reduce the likelihood of coronavirus transmission among the “travel continuum.”

In terms of the modification of public areas, the report recommends hand-washing and sanitizing stations as well as installing transparent screens between staff and customers.

Other guidelines include ensuring PPE is widely available to staff and customers; expanding the usage of automated entrances, deliveries, and curb-side pickup for travel companies; and implementing contactless systems for ticketing, check-in, payment, and automated and online ordering.

In terms of enhanced sterilization procedures, measures specially designed to combat coronavirus must be implemented, Dow and Parkinson explained. Such practices include staff sanitizing more frequently and businesses potentially having to alter their hours of operation to ensure that they can thoroughly clean their facilities.

As well, when referring to businesses developing a system to adhere to CDC guidelines, Dr. Parkinson explained that companies should have “a robust set of procedures” in place should a customer or staff member display coronavirus-related symptoms. Such measures may include a checklist of various instructions to follow, including isolating those with potential symptoms.

Issues may arise surrounding the cost of implementing these guidelines, especially since many companies across the travel industry have already been financially devastated by the repercussions of the pandemic.

In response to this concern, Dow explained that the US Travel Association had spoken with CEOs of all major travel companies within the country, continuing that cost is something that these companies must bear since the cost of not doing it is far more detrimental.

In regards to how compliance will be measured surrounding “Travel in the New Normal,” Dow stated that they had worked across the industry with associations in every sector to ensure that collaboration was met with buy-in from all organizations.

Dow described how a strong commitment to making sure that travelers are moving again is the primary objective of all parties and that the best way to do that is to ensure that travelers feel confident and can see consistency when it comes to the new guidelines.

On the press call, Dow drew a comparison to travel measures implemented following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when “security became the new normal.”

“The new normal will be health and safety,” he explained.

It is understandable that the public would be hesitant about returning to travel due to the nature of how coronavirus is transmitted and the substantial amount of uncertainty that continues to be felt around the world.

Only time will tell if “Travel in the New Normal” will be universally adopted across all 50 states. However, the procedures outlined could present a significant impact on the future of US travel, particularly concerning the responsibility of individuals and businesses to ensure the procedures are met.