As we enter the next phase of responding and adjusting to the effects of COVID-19, mandatory travel restrictions are evolving and starting to loosen to different degrees around the world. The travel industry is preparing for these developments by creating plans to address safety concerns and considerations in the post-crisis travel landscape. This week, the U.S. Travel Association led the way by submitting comprehensive health-focused guidelines for travel businesses, entitled "Travel in the New Normal," to the White House and every state's governor. The guidance was developed in collaboration with medical professionals and organizations throughout the broader travel industry.
Because COVID-19 restrictions and situations vary widely from place to place, individual DMOs and companies are also releasing travel tools and resources designed specifically for their regions, markets or sectors. Here's a rundown of some examples from across the industry.
Local Toolkits and Guides
Going forward, DMOs will continue to play an important role in driving economic recovery in their communities. One way they're helping in this effort right now is by providing guidance to local partners when it comes to safety measures and best practices for recovery. Everyone is already familiar with the importance of hand-washing and social distancing, but DMOs can also provide additional clarity and a strategy for local businesses to start to open their doors in a safe and organized way.
For example, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater has created and maintained robust Crisis Management Resources for their local community, including industry, business and employee tools. This past week, they also aggregated a list of suggestions and ideas for adapting to the COVID-19 era and shared them with their partners via email. This included general safety ideas that can apply across business types, along with ideas specific to restaurants and hotels. In an effort to provide accurate, up-to-date information to support local partners, Visit Loudon has a dedicated COVID-19 Partner Toolkit that includes reopening resources. Southern Indiana’s Clark and Floyd Counties have created a Reopening Best Practices guide for their partners with a list of critical questions that businesses will need to address, as well as a framework for businesses to follow to build their own reopening plan.
Hotels & Lodging
Hotels are also working to standardize safety and cleanliness guidelines as they prepare to welcome back travelers, keeping in mind how to protect both their guests and employees. This week, the American Hotel & Lodging Association released its industry-wide “Safe Stay” guidelines for properties from motels to luxury resorts, including installing hand-washing stations or sanitizer dispensers at all entrances, updated standards for cleaning and check-ins without contact when possible.
Individual hotels and hotel chains have started publicizing their safety plans to help address traveler concerns as well. Hilton has just announced the new Hilton CleanStay with Lysol protection program for its properties around the world. They will collaborate with RB, maker of Lysol, and consult with Mayo Clinic to develop elevated cleaning processes and training. Wynn Las Vegas released a 23-page Health and Disinfection Program with guidelines for operating in a responsible manner, including a proposal to slowly reopen parts of the Las Vegas economy. Marriott International announced a platform to elevate cleanliness standards, behaviors and processes, along with a Global Cleanliness Council to focus on developing the next level of standards.
In the vacation rental industry, Airbnb notes that they are "developing a new Cleaning Protocol for hosts, with guidance from the former US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy and in partnership with leading experts in hospitality and medical hygiene."
Early on in the crisis, airlines had to react quickly to implement new procedures in response to COVID-19 and remain open for business. As travel begins to increase once again, these standards will be critical for addressing consumers' concerns. Delta introduced its Delta Clean standard in early April, and will be implementing additional measures in May. They note: "Aircraft will be fogged before every flight in Delta’s network. The disinfectant used in fogging is immediately safe to breathe and is similar to what hospitals and restaurants use to sanitize." Southwest has posted the new cleanliness measures it's taking, along with suggested procedures that passengers can follow to improve their own safety.
In partnership with their communities, attractions are now evaluating the steps they need to take to reopen. The Orange County Florida Economic Recovery Task Force has released a number of initial phased guidelines for reopening theme parks such as Walt Disney World and Universal Studios. The first phase includes the following steps: team/cast members would be required to continually wipe down surfaces, guests would be provided with tape markings to help maintain six feet of distance and older/at-risk guests would be encouraged to stay home until later phases. The National Golf Course Owners Association has outlined "Park and Play" protocols for opening courses, a program aimed at giving golfers confidence that they can drive to a course, park their cars, get to and around the course, and back to the parking lot in as safe an environment as possible.
There is lots of additional guidance and help available for specific industries. For example, Street Sense has collected a wealth of resources for restaurants here. And for overall insight and ideas for the travel industry, Destinations International has built a Response and Recovery Hub. Miles Partnerships' Clarity in a Time of Crisis resource center features essential insights and recommendations for DMOs and tourism organizations.