The head of the US Travel Association has said it is vital that valuable international routes are revived, with travel’s global rebound primarily being driven by domestic markets.
Speaking in a Resilience Council and Finn Partners virtual summit session on The Americas, US Travel association chief executive Roger Dow said international travel was “extraordinarily important”.
Dow said the 80 million annual visitors to the US accounted for more than $285 billion in spend, and confirmed the country’s tourism sector has suffered job losses equating to 51% of the total workforce, double the rate seen during the Great Depression.
Dow said he expects America’s international markets to come back in reverse order to how they closed down when the Covid-19 shutdown of travel hit in March.
But he said there needs to be consistent and recognised international protocols put in place to ensure people are confident to travel again.
Dow said: “I think it’s going to come back in the reverse order that it was shut down. So Canada and Mexico will come back first, then the UK, Ireland, the Caribbean next.
“Then, finally, we’ll start with other international markets but with Asia and China probably last, for which we’re going to have to do an awful lot.
“What’s going to help that a lot is testing and common approaches around the world so you know that someone coming from one country has gone through the same protocols.
“This has become more apparent than ever that we’re in a global game here, and we all have to be working together and doing the same thing if we’re to bring back travel.”
Dow said one of the challenges will be to bring back air capacity, and Edmund Bartlett, minister of tourism for Jamaica said it was a case of “so far, so good”, for the country in that respect.
Bartlett said Covid-19 presented an opportunity to do things differently and already Caribbean destinations were looking at how they appeal to a new generation of travellers.
Dubbed Generation Covid, this could be professionals looking for longer-term stays so they can work from their beach cottages or visitors who are more conscious of their impact.
“So far airlift arrangements have been good, but the big point about the Caribbean is we represent the most tourism-dependent region on earth,” he said.
“A number of the Caribbean countries are already opening, but we are opening with some new ideas.
“Jamaica is looking at how we establish greater levels of resilience and logistics arrangements that enables the building out of capacity and the strengthening of our human capital to deliver a new type of tourism and respond to a new type of traveller.
“We’re trying to establish what we’re calling a tourism supplies logistics hub where we’re going to be training and building up capacities for a higher level of employment to move away from the traditional concept that tourism is about low paying jobs and is about casual work.”
Representing the US capital Washington DC, Elliott Ferguson, chief executive of Destination DC, said it was vital that destinations emphasised safety and reassured visitors.
Washington is currently in phase two of a four-step plan to end lockdown in US cities which allows small gatherings of 50 people or less but still does not allow international visitors or conventions.
“The reality is people are going to feel safer going to destinations where they’ve seen people practising safe protocols,” Ferguson said.
“And they’ll see that in Washington, they’ll see it on our website in terms of things we are doing to make sure that they’re aware of what has to happen when you’re coming into Washington DC.
“The more individuals feel safe, consumer confidence will continue to increase. The key thing for us is to continue to focus on safety, but safety is a two-way street.
“You have to be very mindful and visitors have to be very mindful of the fact that we’re equally as concerned for those that work in the industries here.
“It’s a new world tied not to what you should you, or maybe you don’t have to do, it’s more along the lines of you what you must do.”
He added: “The protocols now for going into certain environments in Washington DC are so stringent that you feel more comfortable in going back.
“That’s going to have to happen around the US, especially if they expect to see visitors coming back to their cities.”
Greg Takehara, chief executive of Tourism Cares, said the post-Covid ‘tourism reset’ was an opportunity to redefine what economic success looks like and how the sector impacts host destinations.
“We always talk about tourism being 10% of the global GDP, we talk about the number of travellers that are going to the destination.
“But beyond just GDP growth you have to look at things like small business development and proper education and training and having strong inclusive local supply chains.
“It’s a tremendous balance right now, but we have to see this as an opportunity, first and foremost, to integrate those aspects to into future economic success.
“Generation C is going to think differently and the statistics have borne out that people are willing to pay more if sustainability is taken into account, whether that’s by the supplier or tour operator.
“We’re seeing a different type of thinking and a different type of mentality that’s coming to play, but it’s really going to create a necessity to balance it all out.”
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