Conversations with governments about the resumption of travel are positive but progress cannot be delayed until a vaccine is widely available, according to the chief executive of the World Travel & Tourism Council.
Speaking at ABTA’s virtual Travel Convention, Gloria Guevara said action needed to be taken by the winter, adding that the “timeline was crucial” and saying: “We can’t afford to not travel until a vaccine becomes available.”
Guevara outlined the WTTC’s 100 million Job Recovery Plan, which she said had been presented to governments on October 7 and been “welcomed”.
She said it contained 12 commitments from the private sector around ensuring everyone travels with Covid insurance cover and that flexible booking conditions are offered in all cases to allow people to change plans without incurring fees.
But she said: “The private sector can’t recover 100 million jobs alone. For international travel to resume we need testing before departure so that only people with a negative test board the plane.”
Guevara added: “This needs to be low cost, and very efficient so results are returned within 30 or even 20 minutes, so that you know when you board the plane that the people with you don’t have Covid.”
She also called for the removal of blanket quarantines.
“They are not helping and they are impacting the economy,” she said. “Quarantines should only be in place for people who test positive.”
Guevara insisted dialogue with governments was progressing well, adding: “We are very engaged with governments. We have to start this recovery path so we can move forward.”
Guevara said the world must learn from previous crises, citing 9/11 which had had a long, u-shape recovery because there was limited collaboration between different governments.
She added: “It was very painful to have so many different protocols around the world.”
She said other crises had proved that “it is possible to have a faster, v-shape recovery if you act in a coordinated way” in terms of re-opening borders and establishing air corridors.
Guevara said 120 countries or destinations had now received the WTTC’s Safe Travels Stamp and urged agents to look for it when customers ask where would be best for them to travel to.
“It’s a recognition that these destinations have the highest protocols in place so if consumers are asking you, as the experts, where they should go and where they should stay, you need to look for the ones that have the stamp,” she said.
Jim Hepple is an Assistant Professor at the University of Aruba and is Managing Director of Tourism Analytics.