WTTC Outlines New Normal of Travel

LONDON—The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has outlined what the “new normal” will look like as countries begin to end their COVID-19 lockdowns and ease travel restrictions.

“Traveling in the New Normal” is part of WTTC’s plan, which includes critical steps and coordinated actions, including new standards and protocols that offer a safe and responsible road to recovery for the global travel and tourism sector as consumers start planning trips again.

For the last few weeks, WTTC, which represents the global travel and tourism private sector, has been marshaling the efforts of the private sector, sharing best practices from different regions around the world to work on the path forward.

Public-private collaboration between business and governments is vital to develop new health protocols, which will form the travel experience and also provide people with strong reassurances when traveling.

WTTC said the sector will face a gradual return to travel over the coming months as a new normal emerges before a vaccine becomes available on a mass scale, large enough to inoculate billions of people.

Travel is likely to return first to domestic markets with staycations; then to a country’s nearest neighbors before expanding across regions, and then finally across continents to welcome the return of journeys to long-haul international destinations.

WTTC believes younger travelers in the 18-35 age group, who appear to be less vulnerable to COVID-19, may also be among the first to begin traveling once again.

“It is vital for the survival of the travel and tourism sector that we work together and map out the road to recovery, through coordinated actions, and offer the reassurance people need to begin traveling once again,” said Gloria Guevara, president/CEO, WTTC. “We have learned from past experiences that when the protocols from private sector are taken into account and we have a coordinated approach the recovery timeframe is significantly reduced, so the private-public sector collaboration is crucial.”

She continued, “We should avoid new, unnecessary procedures that create bottle necks and slow down the recovery. However, a quick and effective restart of travel will only happen if governments around the world agree to a common set of health protocols developed by the private sector, such as those we’ve outlined. These must provide the reassurance travelers and authorities need, using new technology, to offer hassle-free, pre-vaccine ‘new normal’ travel in the short term.”

The new protocols and standards are being defined following feedback and multiple conversations with WTTC Members, as well collaboration from associations who represent the different travel sectors.

This includes the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the Airport Council International (ACI), Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), U.S. Travel Association (USTA), Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the European Travel Commission (ETC) and theWorld Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

IATA, ACI and ICAO are working closely to define the best protocols to keep travelers and employees safe to enable the aviation sector to recover. TheWorld Health Organization (WHO) and other health experts have also contributed by providing their experience from various global medical crises.

To offer world-class cleanliness, improved hygiene standards and ensure guest safety, hotels are developing protocols based on learnings from offering free rooms to frontline healthcare workers during the COVID-19 crisis.

There will be new protocols for check-in involving digital technology; hand sanitizer stations at frequent points including where luggage is stored; contactless payment instead of cash; using stairs more often than elevators where the 6-ft. rule can be harder to maintain; and fitness equipment being moved for greater separation, among other examples.

Cruise operators will take further measures to ensure ships are free of COVID-19 including staff wearing gloves at all times, which are then frequently changed; and more frequent room cleaning.

Travelers at airports will find themselves tested before they fly and upon arrival at their destination airport. They can expect to see social-distancing measures at the airport and during boarding, as well as wearing masks while onboard.

Aircraft will also be subject to intensive cleansing regimes. These measures will be combined with contact-tracing, via mobile app, that will allow flights to leave airports COVID-19-free.

The protocols, which have been developed using experience from China’s initial recovery and from new successful standards used by retailers, will be fully announced in the next two weeks and shared with governments globally, so there is a coordinated approach to traveling within the COVID-19 world.

There are positive signs of the first green shoots of recovery. Research by travel data and analytics expert Cirium shows that more than 30% of domestic capacity has returned to the Chinese aviation market in the last two months.

Domestic flights have also resumed in some countries, such as in Vietnam between Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, with Vietnam recording relatively few coronavirus fatalities.

To speed up the global recovery, WTTC will continue to work closely with the G20, EU, international organizations and governments around the world to help translate the new protocols into easily adopted public policies by each country while adhering to common global standards.

WTTC said the travel and tourism sector is now facing more than 100 million job losses worldwide due to the coronavirus pandemic, at a cost of up to US$2.7 trillion of GDP.

In 2019, travel and tourism contributed 10.3% of Global GDP, was responsible for generating one in four of the world’s new jobs and, for nine successive years, had outpaced the growth of the global economy.