New industry guidance helps travelers stay safe when traveling

COVID-19 represents an unprecedented challenge to the travel industry. As the travel industry moves to the next phase of its response to the pandemic, officials are attempting to decide how and under what conditions travel businesses are allowed to reopen across America. In response to this unprecedented scenario, the U.S. Travel Association hosted a web seminar regarding the new Industry Guidance for Promoting the Health and Safety of All Travelers. This guidance was developed based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and White House guidelines as well as consultation with public health experts. The guidance not only directly responds to the COVID-19 threat — it also prepares the travel industry for future threats that may arise.

During the webinar, Dr. Michael Parkinson, past president of the American College of Preventive Medicine, outlined the details of the guidance, which was created with input from every segment of the travel industry. Destination Analysts President & CEO Erin Francis-Cummings also highlighted data on traveler sentiment, including what people need to feel safe while traveling again.

“We surveyed 1,200 travelers from four regions of the country every week since March 15,” Francis-Cummings said. “We asked travelers to tell us about their lifestyle priorities the next six months. The survey respondents said staying safe from infection was far and away what Americans were most in sync with prioritizing (47.8 percent). Avoiding COVID-19 is most paramount to travelers.

“The next tier of what people want is emotional well-being (30.4 percent) and finding joy or happiness (27 percent), which is something that travel does very well. (According to the surveys) 70.6 percent of people can’t wait to get back and travel,” Francis-Cummings said.

The industry guidance focuses on these issues:

Create Transmission Barriers

Travel businesses should adapt operations, modify employee practices and/or redesign public spaces to help protect employees and customers. Depending on the business, that strategy could include operational changes, new employee practices or reimagining high-traffic public spaces.

For some businesses these strategies will include practices such as:

  • Reinforcing hand hygiene which can decrease the risk of transmission of respiratory viruses by 50%
  • Utilizing personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves
  • Installing physical barriers, such as transparent screens to provide proper separation between customers and employees
  • Encouraging social distancing by posting new signage to ensure proper separation in lines and common areas, discouraging congregating in crowded areas, reconfiguring public spaces, or limiting the number of employees and guests in various areas
  • Thinking creatively to limit staff physical contact with customers where practical while still delivering superior service
  • Educating both employees and customers about their shared responsibility to help protect each other in a COVID-19 environment

Travel businesses should consider implementing touchless solutions, where practical, to limit the opportunity for virus transmission while also enabling a positive travel experience. Such measures may include adopting contactless technologies or procedures for:

  • Ticketing
  • Identification
  • Check-in
  • Payment for goods and services
  • Automated ordering and pick-up for food and services
  • A broader range of travel and hospitality amenities

“If you are sick, don’t show up to work and don’t travel,” Parkinson said. “The single most effective way to prevent the transmission of a respiratory virus is to wash your hands with soap and water, regularly. Reinforcing hand hygiene is a significant building block that is the cornerstone of what we have to do as an individual and an industry. In your industry, you have to ask how you can redesign (your working environment) to limit unnecessary contact with customers. Eliminate any type of touching or contact when appropriate.”

Enhanced Sanitation

Travel businesses should adopt and implement enhanced sanitation procedures specifically designed to combat the transmission of COVID-19.​ To promote the health and safety of our customers and employees, every segment of the travel industry should deploy enhanced sanitation procedures that include:

  • Establish a policy implementing more frequent hand washing by all employees
  • Sanitizing more frequently, using products and disinfectants that meet requirements for effectiveness against COVID-19; special attention to high-touch surfaces
  • Providing hand sanitizer in public areas throughout facilities
  • Modifying business hours when necessary to carry out thorough sanitation and disinfection procedures
  • Providing new training for employees on implementing these measures with oversight on execution
  • Researching technological innovations and testing new procedures, as appropriate, to enhance sanitation

“What travelers most want from hotels is to be provided with hand sanitizer, facemasks and disinfectant wipes,” Francis-Cummings said. “Mobile check-in is also a popular concept (64.3 percent approved of this). (Upon return), travelers will be less likely to use a fitness center (54.5 percent), breakfast buffet (51.1 percent) and buffets and restaurants (49.7 percent). Nearly two in three travelers say that if a travel company doesn’t take health seriously, they will hold it against them.”

Promote Health Screening

Travel businesses should promote health screening measures for employees and isolate workers with possible COVID-19 symptoms and provide health resources to customers.

Travel businesses should adopt health screening procedures that require all employees:

  • To monitor their health
  • To not report to work if they are ill and/or showing any symptoms
  • To self-isolate if showing symptoms of COVID-19, if awaiting test results, or if diagnosed with COVID-19

Travelers also have a role to play in preventing the spread of COVID-19. To help them fulfill this responsibility, travel businesses should offer appropriate resources to customers to better enable them to monitor and screen their own health, including:

  • Signage communicating COVID-19 symptoms
  • Guidance to local public health resources in case testing or treatment is needed
  • Materials describing good health practices to protect themselves and others
  • Communications encouraging travelers to stay home if they are sick and to postpone travel until they are well

Travel businesses should also establish a set of procedures aligned with CDC guidance should an employee or customer test positive for COVID-19.

Follow Food and Beverage Service Guidance

Travel businesses should follow best practices in food and beverage service to promote health of employees and customers.

While COVID-19 is not a food borne illness, food and beverage service is an essential and ubiquitous part of the hospitality our industry provides to travelers.

When serving food and beverages, travel businesses should follow FDA’s Best Practices for Retail Food Stores, Restaurants, and Food Pick-Up/Delivery Services During the COVID-19 Pandemic and the National Restaurant Association’s COVID-19 Re-Opening Guidance.

They should also review the National Restaurant Association’s longstanding ServSafe guidelines or comparable state program.

“Food and beverage is such a common experience in the industry, it is important to emphasize COVID-19 is not food borne,” Parkinson said. “But it’s important to note, staying as healthy as you can is important. One site travelers should be visiting more is fitness areas. Staying active and healthy and eating a plant-based diet are the best defense against respiratory diseases.”

A Shared Responsibility

Responding effectively to COVID-19 is a shared responsibility. Our guidance reflects the essential role the travel industry must play to help promote the health and safety of our customers and employees. But no industry can overcome this challenge alone.

Travelers also have a responsibility. They must adopt new travel practices and follow science-based guidelines to help protect the health of their family and those around them, including fellow travelers and industry employees.

In the spirit of collective action needed to defeat COVID-19, we urge travelers to do their part and follow government and industry guidance to help protect themselves and others.

“Adopting this guidance is a significant first step but needs to be paired with testing for customers to feel safe to travel,” said Tori Barnes, executive vice president of public affairs and policy for the U.S. Travel Association. “Our view is to implement a strategic re-opening to the economy and will necessitate a phased layer approach to travel. At the right time, people will travel again.”