WTTC calls for leadership from PM Boris Johnson and strong international coordination to save travel sector

TD Editor

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has urgently called on the UK government for strong leadership and unprecedented international collaboration, to save the struggling travel and tourism sector and recover the millions of jobs already affected. Over 100 of the world’s major travel and global business leaders, from major airlines, airports, hotels, tour operators and travel companies, have backed the unprecedented move.

The industry leaders signed and sent the letter, which called for urgent coordinated action, to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and nine other heads of state of the G7 group of countries, as well as Australia, South Korea and Spain, the world’s major source markets.

The letter called on the UK’s leadership during these critical times and was also sent to Keir Starmer and other such international opposition leaders, highlighting the non-partisan nature of the crisis.

WTTC says political leaders of these major powers must step forward to save the global economy, and support the recovery of the hundreds of millions of jobs already impacted. If the global leaders fail to come together, WTTC anticipates irreversible damage to the travel sector. Furthermore, as the crippling travel restrictions remain in place, the number of jobs losses around the world will continue to increase.

Despite travel’s crucial importance to the local and global economies, it is gravely concerned there is no clear or internationally coordinated effort to protect this uniquely exposed sector. Gloria Guevara, WTTC president and CEO, said: “We have reached a stage where critical action is urgently needed. While we recognise each country must protect their own citizens and the priority to date has been domestic matters, any measures taken in silos moving forward will only worsen the plight of millions of ordinary people.”

Among those backing the WTTC call were the business leaders of major airlines, such as British Airways, Emirates, Etihad, Jet2, WestJet and Virgin Atlantic. Business leaders from top international hotel groups, such as Accor, Best Western, Hilton, Hyatt, InterContinental, Mandarin Oriental, Marriott, Meliá Hotels and Radisson have also supported the initiative. Endorsement has also come from major tour operators and travel companies, such as Abercrombie & Kent, American Express, Carlson Wagonlit, Expedia, Travelport, TUI and Uber.

In this letter, WTTC has identified four measures which need concerted international framework and leadership to combat the coronavirus:

  1. Wearing a mask: This should be mandatory on all modes of transport throughout the entire traveller journey, as well as when visiting any interior venue and in locations where there is restricted movement which results in close personal contact and required physical distancing cannot be maintained. According to medical evidence, such measures can reduce the risk of the spread by up to 92%.
  2. Testing and contact tracing: We need governments to invest and agree on extensive, rapid, and reliable testing, ideally with results available in as quick as 90 minutes, and at a low cost, before departure and/ or after arrival (symptomatic and asymptomatic would-be travellers), supported by effective and agreed contact tracing tools. The application of one or multiple tests, with the second after five days, will help to isolate infected people.
  3. Quarantine for positive tests only: Quarantine for healthy travellers, which only serves to damage the economy, should not be necessary if testing is in place before departure and/or on arrival, and effective containment measures are taken five days later. This can replace blanket quarantine in a more targeted and effective way significantly reducing the negative impact on jobs and the economy.
  4. Reinforcing global protocols and standardise measures: The adoption of global health and safety protocols will help rebuild traveller confidence and ensure a consistent, coordinated and aligned approach of the travel experience in addition to significantly reducing the risk of infection. We also support the Public Health Corridor Concept which promotes a clean and safe end-to-end journey.
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