Health & safety are paramount in this new era. Personal experiences, the fear of being stuck in another country and concerns for physical distancing will guide consumer behavior in the short to mid-term. Businesses will have to collaborate even more closely with their extended value chains, especially employees and suppliers, to ensure readiness and the implementation of likeminded protocols. In this context, trust, between travelers and employees, businesses and suppliers, and visitors and local communities, will be a leading engine in the recovery of the Travel & Tourism sector.

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Change in travelers’ behavior about health and hygiene

Safety first

A recent survey revealed that 89% of Americans are now more conscious of germs and 90% say they are washing their hands more frequently than before. Between March and April, for instance, e-commerce website Etsy saw its sales double, largely attributed to the sale of 12 million face masks amounting to $133 million. Even after a vaccine becomes available, travelers are likely to remain more cautious of health issues going forward. 88% of Americans stated that they will maintain this new hand-washing regimen even after the virus has passed. A report focusing on Chinese traveler consumption revealed that tourists would be more likely to seek out destinations with established infrastructure and high-quality medical facilities following the pandemic. 

The trust factor 

In light of growing health & safety concerns, travelers will increasingly turn to authorities they trust for timely and accurate information ahead of and during their travels. Indeed, according to Nikolay Malyarov, CEO of Press Reader International “access to quality information will become increasingly important to travelers, who will look to it for validation”. Joe Richardson, President and CEO of Auto Club Group, noted that travel providers and destinations alike will need to “give travelers as much information as possible to provide peace of mind”. Word of mouth marketing will be a valuable currency for destinations recognized as safe, with 92% of consumers admitting they trust recommendations from friends and family above other forms of advertising.

The fear of being stuck 

Even in “safe” destinations, travelers will remain wary in the short to medium term about the possibility of future outbreaks. According to an IATA survey, more than 80% of travelers were as concerned about potential quarantine restrictions as they are about catching the virus during travel. Travelers are also likely to avoid some of the destinations hardest hit by COVID-19, monitoring travel continuity and health infrastructure at destinations as their trip start date approaches, and cancelling or postponing in case of worrying signs.

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Change of businesses and destinations to ensure safety and hygiene

Defining new norms 

Given the importance of having global standardized protocols to rebuild traveler trust, the sector has built on past experience and proactively worked to enhance its hygiene and cleanliness standards to world-class levels, including deep cleaning, sanitation, and health screenings as needed. Destinations have also put in place programs and campaigns, such as Las Vegas, with its Vegas Smart initiative which promotes fun and entertainment whilst requiring travelers to be mindful of their surroundings and thoughtful of others by wearing mandatory face coverings, keeping one’s distance and hand washing. As Travel & Tourism businesses define new norms, they will continue to engage in strategic partnerships that will enhance their standards as well as the perception of their brands as clean, safe, and compliant with internationally-recognized protocols. Hilton, for instance, rolled out its “CleanStay'' program in partnership with Lysol and Mayo Clinic, while IHG is enhancing its already existing program “Way of Clean” in partnership with Ecolab and Diversey. Among others, United Airlines introduced its United CleanPlus program in partnership with Clorox and Cleveland Clinic, while Airbnb implemented its Enhanced Cleaning Initiative program designed in collaboration with Ecolab. Many destinations, including the Singapore Tourism Board and Turismo de Portugal, have also launched health & hygiene practices and certification to strive for a consistent approach and increase traveler confidence. In this context, and to optimize the sector’s recovery, rebuild confidence among consumers and ensure alignment with the private sector, WTTC developed, in collaboration with over 120 of its Members, health experts, governments and industry associations, its Safe Travels recovery protocols.  

Ensuring hygiene and safety for employee

With health & hygiene gaining importance, employees, particularly client-facing staff, will need to be trained and feel comfortable with the new protocols. In effect, creating a safe environment for employees will be critical. 

Hong Kong International Airport, for instance, is piloting sanitation booths to disinfect employees and read their temperature before they interact with passengers. Technologies, such as PopID, a fever-detection and facial recognition camera service are starting to be used to recognize employees and read their temperature before permitting entry to facilities. Organizations including Apple Leisure Group and Wynn Las Vegas have put in place back office signage reminding employees of proper hygiene, mask use, and distancing protocols, among other measures; while others, such as Marriott, are considering installing plexiglass dividers at front desks. 

Plan for the unexpected 

In this time of great uncertainty, contingency planning has gained in importance. In effect, the stories of travelers being stranded in various locations across the globe have caused traveler anxiety. Going forward, travelers will look for reassurance that, in case of emergency, they will be able to get home. In this context, businesses and destinations alike will need to show they have learned from the past and actively built up their resilience. They will need to hone their contingency planning capabilities and ensure that robust medical and repatriation travel insurance is available to travelers.

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Spread the word

The Travel & Tourism’s sector’s heavy reliance on word of mouth, will remain in this new era of health & hygiene. When rolling out new sanitization programs or enhancing their health and hygiene practices, businesses should raise awareness of these improvements to reassure the first travelers, who will then go on to spread the word about “safe” destinations and providers to others. Traveler feedback, testimonials and recommendations will be critical to confirm that new protocols are not empty words and have significant impact.

Ready the destination 

As travelers remain wary of crowds, they will look to new areas for vacations, with secondary, tertiary, and even rural and smaller destinations growing in popularity. This will however require swift action for destination readiness—both to protect local communities and to ensure the safety of travelers. In effect, destinations will need to develop robust health & hygiene protocols, collaborate with the local private sector, and strengthen health infrastructure where possible.

Source: wttc.org

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