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18 SESSIONÂ 3Â Â Overture:Â AnÂ IndustryÂ OverviewÂ ofÂ theÂ NewÂ NormalÂ toÂ EnsureÂ theÂ HealthÂ andÂ SafetyÂ ofÂ TravelersÂ Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge, St. Louis International Airport and Chair, ACRP Oversight Committee, Moderator Roger Dow, U.S. Travel Association, Presenter Rhonda HammâNiebruegge introduced Roger Dow, President and CEO, U.S. Travel Association. Dow provided an overview of the U.S. Travel Association, which represents all segments of the industry and does lobbying, communication, and research for the industry. Dow expressed the need to get more people traveling during this unprecedented downturn in the aviation industry and presented guidelines in several areas: transmission barriers for travelers in both the redesign of public spaces and touchless solutions; enhanced sanitation procedures; health screening measures; health procedures for those testing positive; and food and beverage guidelines. He directed attendees to industry guidance at ustravel.org/IndustryGuidance. Dow stated that the U.S. Travel Associationâs mission is to get more people traveling to and within the United States. He said, âFrom an airline and an airport standpoint, this is the most horrific thing weâve ever faced.â Dow cited that the industry had lost $519 billion this year, which is down 45%, and that many people are out of jobs. There are 15.8 million jobs in the travel industry; of those, 8.1 million, or 51% of the industryâs employees, are out of work. Dow added that in 1933, the worst year of unemployment in the Great Depression, unemployment was 25.5%. The aviation industry is currently two times worse than at that time. Dow stated that after September 11, the aviation industry came to its knees in 1 hour. Every airline everywhere in the world was grounded, and it took a long time to recover. He pointed out that that was an incident that took place in three locations and, as terrible as it was, people understood it. He said, Now, analysts have indicated that this is nine times more disruptive than September 11. . . . How do we bring this industry back together? Even though we are a unified industry, we all have each of our own areas we work on and we do work together as a whole, but I have never seen an industry come together more than through what has happened now. Dow described the information his organization put together, titled âTravel in the New Normal,â which is guidance for promoting health and safety guidelines for airlines, airports, hotels, convention centers, travel agents, theme parks, and cruise lines. Some 30 different organizations came together representing the industry with a set of guidelines. He stated that consumers are confused as they are receiving mixed messages from the media, in
19 which some say this is catastrophic and another report says it is overblown and has political implications. He said, âConsumers need confidence for reliable health and safety information; otherwise, they will likely stay home.â With that, he asked, âWhat if the industry told you it is okay to travel again?â He cited that 23% said they believed that statement, and 50% said they would not believe it and they thought it was self-serving. He then asked, âWhat if the government told you that it was okay to travel again?â and about 25% believed it, and the same number said they were not sure they believed it but that they thought this was to get America moving again. Further, a question was posed, âWhat if you heard from medical experts that itâs safe to travel now?â Thirty-five (35%) of total responses said they would would travel, he said, but when the three questions were put together and the question was asked, âWhat if you heard from the industry, the government, and from health experts with similar guidelines that are believable and credible, would that change your incentive to travel and the response?â The response then increased to over 60% who said they would travel. Dow said, âThat is why itâs so important that we as an industry work together.â Dow walked through the six different areas in the guidelines. The first area is around transmission barriers. He indicated that the industry needs to modify its business operations, alter employee practices, install barriers, and implement touchless solutions wherever possible. Airports and airlines are reacting in different ways. He stated it is difficult to physically distance on a plane or to operate a business and be 6 feet apart. He added that it is about the kind of transmission barriers that can be put in place, modifications to operations, and the added sanitation. He stated that there are many ways to address touchless solutions with biometrics during the TSA experience. He elaborated that biometrics can be used for security screening at TSA checkpoints rather than touching driverâs licenses numerous times. Also, there are touch points for reservations, check-in procedures, baggage check, and purchases, etc. Dow stated, âThe more we can go touchless, the better, and, thankfully, the technology is available today. â Dow stated another area is implementing enhanced sanitation procedures, screening that the industry should be doing for employees, isolating workers who have symptoms, providing health resources to customers, and having procedures for when an employee or passenger tests positive. Dow expressed that he thinks it is very important to have that capability and an understanding of what the steps are. The next area is to look at health security screening and testing. He stated that 63% of people said they want some kind of certification for sanitation. He stated that there is discussion about partnerships with the Mayo Clinic, the Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins, etc., about a certification and how the guidelines would be developed in concert with the Infectious Diseases Society and other physicians from the preventive medicine area. Next is health screening and testing and what happens if someone tests positive. The last area is around food and beverage guidelines, which are changing in restaurants around the country. Changes are in service standards for opening and in assurances to the customer that they are following National Restaurant Association best practices. Dow stated there is a shared responsibility which they have as organizations, whether it be airports, airlines, or hotels, and responsibility on
20 the part of the traveler. He stated that, âwhen they work together with the providers, this is how we are going to solve this.â Dow outlined the steps his organizationâs public affairs division has been taking to work with the aviation industry: They are active in making sure the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was available for food and retail employees. He added they are trying to address the 501(c)(6) organizations that were left out of that provision, which included convention and visitors bureaus, Broadway, museums, etc. Dow added that the U.S. Travel Association was very influential in getting $10 billion for airports but is going to try and get more for the airports, realizing the importance of airport viability. Dow stated they are pushing for liability protection, with hopes of avoiding frivolous lawsuits such claims of getting COVID-19 while on a plane or going through an airport. Dow added that the most important thing he believed was that people are going to start traveling domestically first and then will venture internationally. They are seeking an âExplore America Travel Tax Credit,â which is a tax credit through 2021 to stimulate legitimate travel. He indicated that they also want to restore the business and entertainment deduction to include all things such as tickets and food. Last, he added that they are looking at a stimulus of $10 billion to go out to communities and cities to start encouraging people to travel again. Dow summarized by saying that âwithout airports, without airlines, we donât have a travel business,â and that âwhat you do is so important.â He added that they have worked together with Airport Council International and everyone in the airport community and provided information about their guidelines (available at ustravel.org) and thanked everyone for the shared partnership. Hamm-Niebruegge closed by stating that âno one can do this alone. Every single piece of this industry has to be coordinated and working toward a similar . . . path. . . . [T]his is one of the most critical things and the reason weâre doing this today.â