Gloria Guevara, executive director of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), said the summer would be very beneficial for travel in Europe, including inbound travel.
In a webinar organized by the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA), it urged governments to coordinate to ensure mobility through uniform testing and documentation requirements. One method, he said, is to focus on individual risk assessments rather than imposing bans based on national risk assessments – thus aggregating entire countries.
Countries must have an exit strategy for resuming travel, Mr. Guevara said, just as the United Kingdom did in adopting the 17th Amendment. May as a tentative date for opening its borders in anticipation of the current pandemic situation. If other countries relax or lift their restrictions, this should allow Europe to recover by the summer. U.S. government policy on this issue will be crucial, she said.
PHOTO: Gloria Guevara, president and CEO of the WTTC. (Photo via Flickr/World Travel and Tourism Council)
Industry, Guevara said, will have to coexist with the virus because it’s not going anywhere. She said: We need to be smart, use technology and work together to implement mobility solutions. According to Mr. Guevara, studies show that the tourism industry, regardless of destination, is the slowest to recover from political instability, and epidemics the second slowest.
The goal of the WTTC plan, according to Mr. Guevara, is a quick V-shaped recovery, like after the 2008-2009 financial crisis, rather than the slower U-shaped recovery after September 11, which took several years. She told me what to do:
-Coordination : Countries need to work together because travel is not an isolated event.
-…focus on individual risk assessment rather than national risk assessment. We can’t base our decisions on whole countries, she said.
Reintroduce health and safety protocols, such as wearing masks and vaccinations. Vaccinations make a difference, Mr Guevara said, but they are not enough.
-support for the travel and tourism sector, including the protection of workers and the need for an exit strategy -a renewal plan for the travel sector.
Mr. Guevara said the tourism industry has lost 174 million jobs worldwide due to the pandemic and that the WTTC has a plan to restore 100 million of those jobs. She said leaders at the latest summit of the major G20 countries focused for the first time on private tourism and the tourism sector.
Looking to the future, Mr. Guevera said the ideal approach would be transparency from private companies and governments, an emphasis on individual rather than national risk assessments, consideration of methods for lifting quarantines, and working toward a more sustainable and inclusive future.
The key to the future, Guevara says, is also consistency in health passports. She distinguished between health passports, which contain detailed information about personal medical history and current privacy issues, and health passports, which contain only travel-specific information – such as vaccinations or tests. The WTTC does not support the requirement for a health passport.
She said there are many good passports and medical applications and none of them will be universal. However, she said they should work together. At some point, Mr. Guevara said, governments should adopt special health passports to facilitate travel. She also said countries should consider options such as testing in groups – for example, testing one person in a family of four.
You can’t guarantee zero risk, Guevara said, but you can manage the risk by informing the traveler. At present, for example, vaccinated travellers still have to be tested because they can carry the virus. For the future, she hopes this will not be the case. She said only those who test positive should be quarantined.
Guevara said Australia has been successful in controlling COWID-19 by closing its borders, but this is not an acceptable option for many other countries. You can’t stay closed for too long, she says, because then reopening becomes longer and more painful.
The way forward, she said, should include vaccinations, especially for the elderly and vulnerable, promotion of international mobility through testing and contract monitoring, and continued work on medical protocols as long as necessary. Digital solutions will enable many of these advances, she said, as will the increasing use of biometrics for security.
Travel after a pandemic will not be the same, Guevara said: We are not going back to 2019, we are going forward.
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