The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) is working on new health protocols to reform the travel experience, and provide people with strong reassurances when travelling in the post-COVID-19 period. Ian Youngman looks at the various hygiene measures being introduced to encourage international travel in the ‘new normal’.
The WTTC protocols are a basis for discussion with governments globally, so there is a coordinated approach to travelling.
The new standards and protocols aim to offer a safe and responsible road to recovery for the global tourism sector as consumers start planning trips again.
Travel is likely to return first to domestic markets; then to a country’s nearest neighbours before expanding across regions, and then finally across continents with the return of journeys to long-haul international destinations.
Global medical tourism needs to closely watch how this develops and amend marketing plans rapidly.
The WTTC believes younger travellers in the 18-35 age group may be among the first to begin travelling once again. This is a blow for medical tourism as many medical tourists, particularly the higher value international patients, are older.
The WTTC is seeking to avoid unnecessary procedures that create bottlenecks and slow down the recovery. But 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. These must provide the reassurance travellers and authorities need, using new technology, to offer hassle-free, new normal travel.
The new protocols and standards are being defined following feedback and multiple conversations with a range of organisations, including the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the Airport Council International (ACI), Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), United States Travel Association (USTA), Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the European Travel Commission (ETC) and the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO). The World Health Organisation (WHO) and other health experts have also contributed.
To offer cleanliness, improved hygiene standards and ensure guest safety, hotels are developing protocols. There will be new protocols for check-in involving digital technology; hand sanitiser stations at frequent points including where luggage is stored; contactless payment instead of cash; using stairs more often than lifts where the two-metre rule can be hard to maintain; and fitness equipment being moved for greater separation.
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.
Travellers 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 on board.
These measures will be combined with contact-tracing, via mobile app, that will allow flights to leave airports COVID-19-free.
The WTTC is pinning hopes on the production of a global vaccine, so that these hygiene measures will be temporary. Some governments have stated that measures should be permanent rather than temporary, that passenger testing is less certain than the WTTC hopes, and that many people do not have smart phones for apps.