The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has called on the U.S. and other governments to show leadership and “unprecedented” international collaboration to save the struggling travel and tourism sector and recover the millions of jobs already affected. Over 100 major travel and global business leaders worldwide—from major airlines, airports, hotels, tour operators and travel companies—have, according to WTTC, backed the move.
The industry leaders signed and sent the letter, which called for urgent coordinated action, to U.S. President Donald Trump and the six other heads of state of the G7 countries (Germany, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, U.K.), as well as Australia, South Korea and Spain. Beyond President Trump, the letter was also sent to former vice president and current presidential nominee Joe Biden, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and other such international opposition leaders, highlighting the non-partisan nature of the crisis.
In the letter, WTTC says political leaders of these major powers must step forward to save the global economy and support the recovery of the hundreds of millions of jobs already impacted. If the global leaders fail to come together, WTTC anticipates “irreversible damage” to the travel and tourism sector. Furthermore, as travel restrictions remain in place, the number of jobs losses around the world will continue to increase. Recently, at a Virtuoso Travel Week virtual event, Gloria Guevara, WTTC president and CEO, said the “worst case scenario” is a loss of 197 million jobs by the end of the year.
Despite travel and tourism’s importance to the local and global economies, WTTC is “gravely concerned” there is no clear or internationally coordinated effort to protect this uniquely exposed sector.
In this letter, WTTC has identified four measures which need concerted international framework and leadership to combat the coronavirus:
- Wearing a mask: This should be mandatory on all modes of transport throughout the entire traveler journey, as well as when visiting any interior venue and in locations where there is restricted movement, which results in close personal contact and required physical distancing cannot be maintained. According to medical evidence, says WTTC, such measures can reduce the risk of the spread by up to 92 percent.
- Testing and contact tracing: Governments need to invest and agree on extensive, rapid and reliable testing, ideally with results available in as quick as 90 minutes (and at a low cost), before departure and/or after arrival, supported by effective and agreed contact tracing tools. The application of one or multiple tests, with the second after five days, will help to isolate infected people.
- Quarantine for positive tests only: Quarantine for healthy travelers, which only serves to damage the economy, should not be necessary if testing is in place before departure and/or on arrival, and effective containment measures are taken five days later. This can replace blanket quarantine in a more targeted and effective way significantly reducing the negative impact on jobs and the economy.
- Reinforcing global protocols and standardize measures: The adoption of global health and safety protocols will help rebuild traveler confidence and ensure a consistent, coordinated and aligned approach of the travel experience in addition to significantly reducing the risk of infection.
WTTC research has shown that even a modest resumption of traveling can have massive economic benefits and bring thousands of desperately needed jobs back.
Among those backing the WTTC call were: WestJet, British Airways, Emirates, Etihad and Virgin Atlantic; Accor, Best Western, Hilton, Hyatt, InterContinental, Marriott, Meliá Hotels and Radisson; and American Express, Carlson Wagonlit, Expedia, Travelport, TUI and Uber.