Industry and governments need to avoid contradictions in Covid-19 policies or risk uncertainty for travellers, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has warned.

WTTC president and chief executive Gloria Guevara said: “We have to rebuild traveller confidence.”

Speaking on a Hong Kong Tourism Board global online forum, she suggested there were lessons industry and governments should take from three previous crises in travel.

Guevara said: “After 9/11, every government decided their own protocols without consultation with the private sector.

“That is why, 19 years later everywhere around the world what they ask you to do is different.”

For example, she said: “Some places ask you to remove your shoes, others don’t. It created uncertainty and had an impact on travellers’ trust.

“It is very important we don’t offer contradictions or uncertainty. As long as the experience is consistent it will help give confidence to travellers.”

Guevara suggested a second lesson, saying: “In 2008, the impact of the financial crash was greater than 9/11, but travel recovered in 18 months on average.

“We had great cooperation between private and public sectors. We need to have greater coordination between public and private sectors [now].”

Third, she highlighted the outbreaks of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003 and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS) in 2012, saying: “We had SARS and MERS, but people were able to travel without a vaccine. Why? We were able to isolate sick people.”

As a result, the WTTC “came up with four principles”, she said.

“First, it is important to co-ordinate. There are still issues with countries that have quarantines like the UK. In Asia, a lot of countries are not open.

“We need to remove barriers. If states want to impose quarantine, we believe in corridors.

“Second, look at the seamless traveller experience. The use of biometrics will help as recover faster.  We need to add testing and contact tracing.

“Third, protocols – we need to work together to rebuild confidence for international travel. If we have to wear masks on every flight then there is consistency.

“If we offer different experiences on every flight, in every hotel, it creates uncertainty.”

Last, she said: “Work with governments. Don’t think it will be a switch off and on, or that suddenly hotels will be full.”

The WTTC published its Safe Travels protocols in full this week in a Safe & Seamless Travel report.

The guidelines were produced in accordance with World Health Organisation (WHO) and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance and that of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) following consultation with WTTC members and government officials.