Last week, in a letter to Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Zane Kerby, president and CEO of the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA), called for a number of specific actions to help restore consumer confidence in the domestic and international travel system. The top priorities, in ASTA's view, is to set clear standards across all travel modes and for public health officials to assure consumers that it is safe to travel again.
“Our research indicates this message from the government (regarding consumer safety) will outweigh any other messages—from travel suppliers, from government officials outside public health departments, even from friends and family in influencing consumer confidence,” Kirby said in the letter.
While the CDC has issued very specific communications for cruise travel, Kerby says its other efforts have been “uneven at best.” He adds, “In the absence of clear communication, the entire population remains essentially in the dark, left to rely on a patchwork of regional, state and local pronouncements to inform their decision making with respect to travel.” By leaving airlines, hoteliers, cruise lines, tour operators, rental car companies, insurance providers and others to their own devices as it pertains to restating their operations—as opposed to a coordinated approach—the overall revival of the travel industry will be hindered.
ASTA offered the CDC four goals for restarting the travel industry:
- Setting clear standards across all travel modes
- Prioritize the restart of the cruise industry
- Prioritize the resumption of passport processing
- Prioritize the resumption of international travel
In the letter, ASTA says, based on its member surveys, the travel agency community expects to lose at least $7.7 billion in revenue this year, with the industry contracting by more than 50 percent. Should current conditions hold, ASTA expects more than half of U.S. travel agencies to go out of business by September. According to the U.S Travel Association, the unemployment rate for the travel industry as a whole is 51 percent, twice the nationwide high at the peak of the Great Depression, while travel-related job losses represent more than one-third (38 percent) of all job losses through April—that’s more than 8 million jobs.